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Tiny House Hobbies: 5 Things You Can Do in Small Spaces

In a recent comment, someone asked the question:

“As a skier, kayaker, biker rider, backpacker, organic vegetable gardener and food preserver, I would love to see more small homes that have folks who are living very active lives with the accoutrements that go with these lifestyles.”

I thought I might take a stab at addressing tiny house hobbies. Of course, as usual, I can only speak to my own experience. I hope that maybe other tiny house dwellers that have different and perhaps more complex hobbies can also chime into the conversation.

When I was thinking about our hobbies I realized that many of them, with the exception of two that I will get to later, are designed to use very few accessories.

guitar on the wall

I encourage you to read below to learn about our 5 tiny house friendly hobbies that you might want to do too:

  1. Chess. Matt plays online chess on some pretty competitive servers. The only equipment he needs is his tablet. We both also play other online games with friends from all over the country.
  2. Music.  Once again, this is Matt’s hobby. A couple of years ago, after spending his life behind the drums in bands, he decided to switch things up and learn the guitar. Now he has been singing and writing songs as well. We have a guitar hanger in the house to keep it out of the way when it isn’t being used.
  3. Hiking. All I need for hiking is a pair of hiking boots – which I also sometimes need just to walk up to my own tiny house. We love to check out different trails around the mountains in Asheville.

an evening concert

That was when I realized there was a second category of our hobbies which require more equipment. And here is where we needed to be realistic and practical. For our equipment-heavy hobbies we have a storage space. In our case, it is a barn that was on the land when we bought it. For other tiny house dwellers they may want to build a small shed to store additional items. If a tiny house is parked in the back yard of friends or family, arrangements could be made to share basement or garage space. Our two stuff-oriented hobbies are:

Me using my Camp Chef Camp Oven

Me using my Camp Chef Camp Oven

  1. Camping. Actually, I should say Glamping. What we do is not “roughing it.” We typically go on one or two camping trips a year with friends to small festivals around the country. There, we set up a temporary village with everything from a bar to a relaxation space. Our tents are decorated and we use pretty linens rather than sleeping bags on our air mattresses. When the Element was younger and had about 100,000 fewer miles we would pack it to the gills with anything we thought we might want. Now, with a smaller car and a smaller lifestyle we have edited our supplies down to three plastic bins but it is still a lot of camping equipment.
  2.  Nerding. I was trying to come up with a title for this hobby and that was the best I had. I originally thought I would say “Costuming” but there is more to it than that. Every year we attend DragonCon – a science fiction fan convention in Atlanta, GA that attracts over 50,000 people. We wear costumes and we bring table top games to play. All of those things have to go somewhere. Our costumes also stay in sealed bins in the barn until we need them. This year, we are totally rocking an Alice in Wonderland theme, by the way. We also play our table top games, like Castle Panic and Munchkin, in the tiny house from time to time.
My Steampunk DragonCon Costume

My Steampunk DragonCon Costume

Like I said, my hobbies are pretty specific but that is all I can really comment on. Everything we enjoy doing we are able to either keep compact or keep organized in a separate storage space. I believe that regardless of the specific hobby you can do the same thing as part of your tiny house experience.

What kind of hobbies would you take with you to your tiny life?

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Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.
{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Kat August 2, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Hi, I am an artist (mixed media) and crafter and also on home hemodialysis (so lots of medical supplies) as well as home physical therapy supplies for spinal problems. I have recently looked into tiny home living. I also have two cats. My main hang up is money but I am hoping to make my plans a reality in a few years. I am already looking at some things differently. Like using the supplies I have before acquiring more. I agree there are not currently a lot of precedent for people with complex lives in small spaces. I am able to fit my current life into a larger studio apartment though, out of financial necessity. I am playing around with layouts and I really think tiny living can be made to work even with a complex life. I am hoping to make a blog chronicalling my tiny living adventures when and if I have the money to build my own tiny home. (I coild not buy premade as it would have to be modified a little to accommodate my medical needs.) I think that people can fit almost anything into a small space with good storage/design and planning. You just have to think outside the box. Blessings <3

  • Laura Norcross August 2, 2013, 4:41 pm

    My husband *needs* to work on cars, so we’re planning to have a barn or small garage built on our land to accommodate his hobby.

  • LaMar Alexander LaMar August 2, 2013, 6:22 pm

    I am an avid outdoorsman so my 14×14 off grid cabin fits my lifestyle perfectly. I hike, kayak, ride bikes, write music, build stuff, work online, raise animals, garden, fish, and write books and create videos of my adventures so my cabin is always in a state of chaos which to me is the sign of an active life.

    I have bins for storing my gear against the knee wall in the loft for seasonal gear and I built a separate 8×8 shed for my workshop bench, tools and that also holds a washer and dryer, my battery system and wind and solar power equipment.

    I want to build a covered carport this fall so I can park my camper under there and also use it if I want t work on a vehicle out of the weather.

    I am single with a girlfriend in her own house so my cabin only as to fit my eclectic lifestyle and not please anyone else and that is just how I like it!

    LaMar

  • Cahow August 2, 2013, 6:33 pm

    Laura: LOVE your hobbies, especially the DragonCon one! We’re really into the RenFair and have bins of costumes worn and loved throughout the decades. 🙂 It used to be the entire family but with the kids all grown and moved out, it’s just my husband and I for the past 4 years.

    Curious: your hobbies are pretty “tiny”. When you lived in your bigger home, were they the same hobbies or did you downsize your interests specific to your home?

    Well, sadly or not, our family has TEXAS-SIZED HOBBIES. Regarding our collective family’s hobbies, everyone but me (sniff-sniff) is musically gifted. We brought our grand piano from the city to the cottage and we also have a keyboard, synthesizer, two guitars, a viola and a violin now at the cottage. Every kid WANTED to take lessons (imagine that) and we are the family, that when we all come back together, our living room or outdoor deck turns into a hootenanny or jamboree. Our biggest gathering is during Hogmanay, when we host the festivities and over 30 people spend the next 36-48 hours awake and partying/singing/dancing/eating.

    My hobbies are weaving, jewelry design and baking. The jewelry design takes over my entire office’s flat surfaces when I’m laying out designs. The loom is in a corner of my office and is 6′ x 6′. Bins of fibers are stored EVERYWHERE in the house that has a spare inch to spare. I do have a Master List of where the various fibers are stored so they don’t get lost. My baking hobby is borderline a 2nd career. I could open up an outlet centre with my pans and specialty equipment I own. And seriously, the items are ALL USED! In our nice pantry, I have 3 metal racks that store the pans and flours, nuts, etc. I go through things so fast, expiration dates are never a concern. In our upright deep freeze, I normally have 20-50 pounds of butter at any given time…oh YES I do! (LOL) Friends hire me to bake wedding cakes, specialty cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc. Then, I bake for my family every couple of days. I bake for friends as gifts and weekly, I bake “requests” for the dear seniors at our local Senior Centre. I have a fish bowl at the centre with a photo of sweeties on it; the seniors are encouraged to write down requests from their childhood to present day. Then, I pull a slip of paper each week in front of them (so they know what’s to come) and bake it for them to enjoy on Saturday during their social hour.

    My husband creates copper foil stained glass windows and we’ve converted a wall-to-wall closet in the combination guest room/his office/hobby room for his craft. Glass is stored upright, on custom built shelves, along with all the chemicals. Ventilation is key and he has an industrial strength fan built into the wall and a moveable fan, too.

    Together, we love to bike around our county, cross country ski, picnic and decorate the house for various holidays. The storage shed out back holds all that stuff.

    Our family is pretty typical for our set of friends. Our three kids were into music but with other friends, their kids are into Mega Sports of all kinds and mud rooms have been turned into equipment rooms. Plus, various friend’s kids/families are really into camping/hiking/art/quilting/sewing, etc. (Ever see a quilting frame? The footprint is almost the size of a tiny house!) Our family was deeply into camping, too, but with our age and the kids all gone, we gifted the equipment to our the “child” that would use it the most.

    Can you see why a 120 sq.ft. home isn’t in our future? 😉

    • Ralph Sly August 4, 2013, 8:53 pm

      Impressed once again, my goodness Cahow, how do you find time to rest, pun on R&R curriculum. LOL, isn’t that resting? I was into woodwork and the tools were large, like your, quilting frame, a friend of mine in a small space, a little less than yours suspended it from the ceiling. It was rather interesting when there was a project in the works. Anyway, I have found the mini or micro tools will do a lot of what I used full size equipment to do. Grant you I have changed to smaller projects now but am amazed how versatile and well built these little things are and I have split a 4×8 sheet of plywood on a table saw no bigger than a laptop computer, of course there were jigs and templates which hang in rafters or on walls, you just build them differently. My point, yes, if you are adapting this lifestyle you have to really look at what is you most rewarding hobby, extracurricular activity or outside adventure and scale that down a bit as well, it is all encompassing and can be done. I really feel for the car guys, very few micro tools for that interest.

      • Cahow August 5, 2013, 7:23 am

        Hi, friend, Ralph. 😀

        HOW do I find time to rest? Rest is over-rated, LOL! No, seriously…except for the baking, the hobbies I listed are only worked on in the Winter, when my company shuts down from January to March.
        Agree about The Car Guys: even working on a Mini Cooper requires space. 😉

  • Susie M August 2, 2013, 7:57 pm

    I find I can’t relax unless I have yarn or something to do with my hands. I knit, crochet, quilt, sew, paint, carve, and anything else that catches my attention. I can make things from Pallets, remodel a bathroom, build a chicken coop (I love my power tools, they take up the most space, especially my table saw)
    I look at something and think “oooh, I could do that… I think” and so, I do. But even tho’ I have a large stash, it is storable. Lay the fabric out flat underneath the mattress in color co-ordinated sections. Make a series of X shelves for the yarn to fit in the smaller loft, as long as there is no window for fading (or put a stained glass window in) My carving chisels hardly take up any space, and that’s messy, so I’d only do it outdoors, that way I don’t have to clean up.
    I have recently acquired an old fashioned treadle powered sewing machine. So I don’t need electricity for that. I can sell my creations on line to feed my hobbies.
    Growing food like herbs, fruit, and veggies organically, I don’t really see as a hobby, rather as a way of life. A lot of that can be done in stacked plastic bottles and jugs… (see instructables.com)
    The same with baking my own Artisan bread, and making my own yogurt. I also keep chickens, and would love to have a couple of goats and a llama.
    My land unfortunately must be the only part of Vermont that you have to import topsoil… what gives? I have rocks and gravel held together with clay and sand. I’m sure in a million years or so it will be fine, in the meantime, I compost everything in sight…lol I’v even thought of raiding local restaurants for compost supplies…. raised bed compost lasagna anyone?
    If I stay here and get my tiny house, I will need help with the land. If I sell the land and my 3 bedroom/2 bathroom 1400 sq’ double wide, I’ll be able to afford my tiny house straight away, but where will I put it? Oye, decisions, decisions. I’ve already whittled down my books, clothes, shoes and kitchen equipment on paper.

  • alice h August 3, 2013, 10:58 am

    My number one hobby is puttering. I’m always finding something to modify or improve around the place so that means tools and materials. All sorts of bits of interesting wood or other stuff are stashed here and there. Crazy things like a box of smashed car glass for an art project. Then there’s sewing, with two electric machines and a couple of treadles (one is for my granddaughter) and an unspeakably large (but very organised) collection of fabric and notions. I also do cross-stitch and needlepoint, beading, crocheting, dollmaking and felting. Then there’s baking, sometimes for a local SRO residence, gardening and canning and preserving. I have a spinning wheel I want to start playing with one of these days. There’s also drawing and I have some water colour paints I’d like to experiment with too.

    My town apartment is 300 sq ft but I also have the use of a room for sewing and crafting. My island paradise Boler is only big enough for hand-held projects but it’s a great place to work out designs for larger projects. The 8×20 that will eventually replace the Boler (and apartment) will have dedicated sewing space and fabric storage in the loft and the Boler will be guest quarters and extra storage but the large costume collection will likely have to live elsewhere.

    I’d rather pick up whatever hobby interested me and figure out where I could do it than have the size of my living space determine what I could or couldn’t do. The house should fit your life as much as possible, not the other way around. If the size of the house is limited for whatever reason then you have to make some choices about what you do and where. Sometimes there are community resources you could use.

    • Ralph Sly August 5, 2013, 12:20 am

      Alice, your short mention of finding someplace to store your costumes started this old head spinning, why I don’t know what incited this off the subject idea but that’s how my mind works. I have been paying large, $200.00 per month each in 3 sites ($600.00 a month to store things I don’t use) for storage space 8×15’ enclosed covered unheated areas, and $25.00 a month for a 32’ RV. What was wrong with this picture? I now have an old, cost $1,500 35’ trailer with two storage bins now gone and those things loaded in the trailer for $25.00 a month. It’s amazing that I didn’t see the forest for the trees. No one asks me what is in the trailer, the windows are covered, it’s just park it over there. Now, with that thinking which with me, gets wild, so I am looking for more trailers and just think of the things I do not have to get rid of. And that people is premeditative hording on the scale down method. LOL, no, just joking, things are going so I can invest deeper in my main hobby.
      My main hobby takes in many small ones, I use to fly across this county and spend lots of money on lodging and vehicle rentals but now have a fully equipped, very old but decent and good running RV paying $20.00 a month, yearly, that’s 2 nights motel stay) in a village in eastern Canada where I fly to, eastern Ontario, and that’s often, I take a cab to it and the lodging and vehicle rental is gone. I have better vacations then I used to. Monthly storage insurance is cheap on the vehicle (another motel room) and I keep it registered in my home province, I take the plates with me. (laminated a full size photo copy of the plate to put on the vehicle when I am not there so they know it is registered, keeps people from steeling the plate, yes, I have had that happen) and Kick the full insurance on while I am there, a month or so at a time. I also have things in that RV which I would only use on those junkets and now do not have to transport them or much clothing with me. This method makes full lodging and meals very reasonable. Flights are cheap using my visa with travel miles for everything including chewing gum and paying it off monthly provides some flights or most of it.
      RV insurance is much cheaper than regular car insurance so every vehicle I own now is an RV, I do pay a little more for fuel, but not much and have more conveniences having a little home with me always. Example, in the morning I am off to the Calgary area and will be in several small towns for over a week, maybe two, I have the truck and RV, camper permanently bolted on making it a designated RV, have my own space to escape to if I feel like spending the evening someplace and have a drink or two, no driving, I just crash in the most comfortable way. When I come home I may go east for a month or so, store this one, transfer the insurance to the other one and Bobs your uncle. I have actually thought of using this method as a full time life style, when you work out the costs and travel to warm climates in the winter as I have done often, setting up a few of these older good RVs possibly 4 to cover my areas of interest is cheaper than even building one TH. You only insure one and transfer your full insurance leaving storage insurance on the ones not in use. These vehicles are not valued high enough to require collision, purchase ones with flat glass so no glass (it’s cheaper to replace flat glass then carry glass insurance) insurance and hold liability with fire and theft is good enough to have you covered and you can afford lots of it.
      If you insist on driving one newer vehicle rather than fly, trailers would do the same job only I would have one very compact unit on a truck to sleep in while on route but at my age I like to fly and it’s faster and cheaper. A buddy told me today not to worry about getting older, it doesn’t last long but I told him it seems to have already lasted longer than my youth did. I have already driven most of Canada and the USA, my daughter is returning to the east coast where her children reside and they have an acreage she is building her house on, it was discussed that I possibly keep the big motor home and leave it in their back 40 and spend more time with them once in a while, we will see lots of each other and have our own space. It also works out well that only 3 hours drive from her place lives a lifelong friend of mine who wants me to come down there more often, I like that idea and just may take them up on it but the big one is presently designated to be stored in AZ where many of my older friends go each winter and I just may join them.
      Anyway, that’s my main hobby and it’s easy to do the hands on things like photograph only with me it’s just taking photos, or, or, or, or, I also like seeing older architecture, researching provenance of structures and places or just finding a lake, renting a boat and getting out on the water. When I eventually get this permanent place at least livable, I will be doing this a lot more.
      I also found myself through stupidity, a lot worse off financially than originally planned for retirement. To compensate, I am building an outside café (with equipment I already own from saving past life things) next to my building here and will get it going and then rent it out so I can have the time to travel, I can also rent out the building other than my cubby hole. I found I was overspending so, by total fluke, and out of character and reasoning took a course and got a security guards license. Now, that is something a guy my age and in my health can do a little bit of. It doesn’t pay much but I could live off it if I had to, it sure helps compensate the pension. There is a large turn over so jobs are always available just about any place you go and as you are individually licensed, you can work for as many companies as you wish, taking whichever job you choose and work whatever days you really want to, at least a couple of times a week. Or not work at all. You can hold a license in several provinces at a time and keep your home province address but it takes a couple of weeks to get each license. In essence, you are a free agent of a temporary sort. A good example of this is, I hold a license in both Alberta and BC, if, when I get to Alberta and have to hold over for a couple of days doing nothing, which in this case might just be the situation, I want to work even to fill in time, I can. So, what I am doing is trying to blend my hobbies into a comfortable lifestyle. If I go east for a month or so and want to earn a little, I will apply on line and get their provincial license a couple of weeks before I go down. It cost you a little to get the license and makes some tax issues but there are also many good tax advantages with your travelling as well so it balances out, besides, I pay a man in a little brown suit to do my taxes and let him figure it out, I just keep the t4s and receipts available for him in a big binder diary of sorts, do everything online and now keep good records.

      • nancy August 5, 2013, 12:35 pm

        Laura, I think some people might not click with the word “hobby”. Music could be seen as a hobby, feeding yourself not so much. Food preservation can be a mandatory thing if you’re trying to grow your own food, or buy local, then can, dry, or some how preserve it. You might need to do this in all kinds of weather, not just outside when it’s dry. You’d need to big enough space to prep then process the foods, then wash up everything. I’ve always felt the lack of a workable kitchen was one of the biggest issues for tiny house. A tiny stove/fridge would be great for one person unless you eat a lot of fresh foods that need refridgeration. Many very old homes, even the small ones, had big kitchens for exactly that reason. You need room to store and use foods. I’d like to see some tiny home builders incorporate this into their designs. While you could store things like empty cans/equipment outside in a decent shed, you’d always want to store your food inside, unless you’re using a cellar.

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