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Families and Tiny Houses: Do You Think It’s Doable or No?

The other morning I got this email from a reader on the topic of families and tiny houses.

Here’s what it said and then I’ll give you my thoughts after (and I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments).

If you have a family and you’re thinking of going tiny don’t do it until you read this:

“Hi Alex,

I LOVE your site and am so interested in tiny houses!!! I would live in one today if I could convince my husband. We have a family of 5 (one teenage girl and two 5 year olds). Would love to simplify our lives and live within our means. I have never seen any of these houses in person and was wondering if you knew of any in _____? We currently live in ______.

Thank you!”

families-and-tiny-houses

So, what do you think? (share in comments & read what I think below)

For a family of five simple and small seems great, but I’m not sure about tiny. And when I say tiny I mean 100-200 square feet (just to be clear).

The good news though is that a large family can still live a simple life by living within their means with or without a tiny house. There are lots of small house options too where you can gain lots of the same benefits.

So to me, the idea of families and tiny houses is just asking way too much out of your family. I think it’s challenging enough for many couples to live tiny and do it happily so when I think of a family I immediately think: they could use more space.

If you’re in love with tiny houses and you have a family I’d like to guide you towards looking at some small cabins and cottages or even Park Models. Consider some well designed homes that are 500-1200 square feet. And maybe even a little larger depending on the size of your family.

And maybe you can still build a tiny house on wheels as an inexpensive vacation home or weekend camper for now?

If enjoyed this discussion on tiny houses and families continue reading the communities thoughts and considering sharing yours below and join our free daily tiny house newsletter for more!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Will July 24, 2013, 8:33 am

    My wife and I will soon be starting our tiny house. Our intention to be a family of 3 plus dog has lead us to a larger design. Specifically a modified 12×24 from tiny house design, with a site layout that will allow for a small addition as the kid grows. Tiny is relative when it comes to houses.

  • Julie July 24, 2013, 8:36 am

    I feel like you are projecting your own feelings onto this topic too much instead of actually answering the question that was asked. You personally obviously would not live in a tiny house with a family. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It definitely wouldn’t be easy, but I don’t think it’s fair of you to basically say it’s a terrible idea and shouldn’t be done. The folks over at http://tinyhousefamily.com/ seem to managing just fine. People have raised large families in extremely small dwelling throughout history. It’s totally possible. The question is whether or not the person and their family is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make it work.

    • Ralph Sly July 24, 2013, 12:56 pm

      I have to go with Julie on this one Alex; it is up to them how small they want to go. My preschool years were spent in a neighborhood where the average house was under 800 sq’, they were War Time Housing. I remain friends with neighbors from that hood today. They didn’t have a lot of money and did have large families, the houses were on ample lots and those were the entertainment center with the wood shed out back where much was learned and messages of behavior taught. (The willow hung by the back door) It was nothing to climb into someone else’s bed when the brother or sister you slept with wanted to be alone and literally kicked you out. From birth to about 4 years old, my sisters would put me into a built in drawer (open) LOL using a big pillow for comfort, often the floor was good enough. It’s hard not imposing your personal opinion but I think these sites are information gathering places and there are many very large families finding that dropping out of the norm and finding solace in the back woods to be just up their alley in very small dwelling and natural settings.

      • Alex July 24, 2013, 3:35 pm

        I actually totally agree with you Ralph. It’s up to each person. And when I say ‘tiny’ in this post I mean ‘tiny’.. Like a tiny house on a trailer.

        I guess my point said more simply would be that yes I think families should downsize and simplify, but not necessarily to 150 square feet.

    • Alex July 24, 2013, 3:33 pm

      The folks at Tiny House Family are building a small house in addition to their tiny one because it meets their needs better and makes them happier. I know it’s possible. I just believe that in most situations it’s not the greatest idea unless everyone is totally on board. And I find that if the family makes up with experiences for the lack of space/privacy that it can help too. For example, a family touring the country in a motorhome throughout a summer.

      • Jeff January 31, 2014, 10:35 pm

        Hi Alex,
        Your site is full of good information and it seems as if you are “in the know” with all kinds of people living the Tiny Home Life. But I am disappointed by your answer. My family and I moved into a studio apartment and we have a teenage son. It took some adjusting and creative strategies to gain privacy but we have been VERY successful and happy living smaller. We have also decided to embark on the Tiny Home life by moving into a Tiny Home next week and we are all very excited. As with any move their are many challenges that can be overcome. Each family is different and should make that decision based upon their needs.

        It would’ve been nice if you could have referred that family to tinyhousefamily.com. By doing this you would have put them in the hands of parents who are already living tiny and answered the question.

        The reader also asked if you could refer her to a person in her area living in a Tiny Home. It would have been a good idea to just make the referral so she could see tiny houses in person.

        I’m curious…do you live in a Tiny Home Alex? And do you have children? I hope the answer to both of those questions are yes because that would make you more qualified to answer that readers questions. Because we are doing it and love it.
        Kindly,

        • Alex Pino February 3, 2014, 8:58 am

          Thanks Jeff to answer your Qs no children and no tiny house but have been practicing tiny living in 400-500 sq ft apartments for around 7 years now w/ my fiancee and our lil dog. We’ve been loving it. It’s helped us so much. We’d do even it with kids but would prefer to have a bigger place to let the family grow in without having to move over the years. But this is why I started the conversation, to hopefully hear from folks like you who *are* happily doing it showing us all that it *is* possible. Thanks again.

  • Cahow July 24, 2013, 8:37 am

    Alex, you continue to amaze me with your broad-minded thoughts on tiny homes and when they DO or DON’T work for a person/people. Bravo!

    I’ll share some excellent advice I read on one of your follower’s comments, ages ago.

    For the woman who dreams of tiny home living: the simplest and easiest and “free-est” way to even find out if your family can work in a small/tiny home is to begin to “cut off square footage” right where you live and see how that works out for you! For instance, if all three children have separate rooms, close off two of the rooms and place all 3 kids in one room. If you have a dining room/family room/media room or use a basement, close off ALL of those rooms and restrict your use to the kitchen and “hang out room of your choice.” If you have a combination kitchen/dining room, move out ALL of the dining room furniture and then stuff that room with the TV, sofa, chairs that your family needs. Rent or borrow a foldable table and foldable chairs and see how that impacts your family for each and every meal. Clean out 100% of your kitchen cabinets and reduce your belongings to 1 or 2 cabinets: that includes dinnerware, glassware and cooking appliances.

    By having your family on board for this experiment and setting a time limit of a couple of months or more, that should allow everyone to see/feel/and think about just how much square footage your family needs NOW…and also down the road when those 5 year old boys turn into teens.

    Cheap, easy, FREE and do-able, right from the comfort of your current home. 🙂

    • nadine roberts July 24, 2013, 9:20 am

      Cahow, you are brilliant. I have been following another website http://thesimpleyear.com/ and working getting rid of things but I honestly hadn’t thought about simply shutting down an area like you said. That is next on my list. Thank you!

    • Ralph Sly July 24, 2013, 12:58 pm

      Cahow, the logic you present is good as usual, however, it is hard to make this work unless you have all on board. I could just have seen trying to get all 4 of my very different children to agree to this. However, reverting back to never being house poor, I always lived below my means so my children knew what it was like to cooperate in smaller living conditions than many of their friends. (They are all financially well healed but live below their financial means and live life – the brats are always travelling, LOL) This also allowed us to maintain a 2nd home in a vacation area, again small with a large yard, near a lake with a large deck where life was lived. I feel many should adopt the live by the house poor advice right from the onset then they won’t be totally stretched or have to change the style others become accustom to down the road. They are the parent, they make the decisions. Figure it out and move, the kids will soon get used to it.

    • Alex July 24, 2013, 3:36 pm

      I love this idea. Thanks for sharing and I encourage people to try it out!

    • alice h July 24, 2013, 4:24 pm

      Practical and simple solution. It would also work for couples and singles too, though the average room size in larger houses wouldn’t necessarily be the same experience as hanging out in an 8′ wide tiny house on wheels. You’d have to do it for a while too, not just a couple of weeks. If you really want to appreciate a tiny house have a trial period in something even tinier (small travel trailer, mini RV) then move “up” to the tiny house.

    • Kathy Gonzalez July 24, 2013, 8:30 pm

      Great idea and it is one we have tried and it works. We lived in a tiny home 140 square ft, and gained guardianship of our two teen granddaughters. We made it work for 6 mths then we’re able to get into a larger home. We will go back to living tiny when our last one is on her own. Teens need privacy space and girls even more it seems. Cutting down your living space ahead of time gives the opportunity to see where changes need to be made, find out if those changes are feasible and get everyone acclimated and on board. It all depends on what your family as a whole values most. Good luck.

  • Daniel S July 24, 2013, 4:22 pm

    I would say that any family can right-size their house to free them from the unnecessary burden of decades of debt and living only part-time while working full-time. I wouldn’t suggest 200 ft² for a family of 5, but seriously, this is about right-sizing for the habitants, not going for the smallest house possible.
    I also have the suspicion that you might be projecting your own needs onto them, and your perceived needs for children. I think the Tiny House Family (book “Coming Home: Letters from a Tiny House” which you reviewed) is a good example of a family right-sizing their habitation. I’m afraid that I don’t agree at all with your “don’t do it” or “some people shouldn’t do it” answer. I would say the opposite, everyone should right-size their habitation.
    For the author of the letter… good for you ! Since you haven’t seen any of these houses, it might be fun to do a little vacation and rent a small place and see how the family likes it. If you guys are on the debt treadmill like so many families, I definitely support the idea of freeing yourselves from debt so you can live full-time with your family, then work part time on the side. I am curious if your family also is involved or interested in maximizing quality of life and reducing the importance of piles of physical objects. I loved the book Affluenza, and I would recommend it to you as well. My girlfriend and I are extremely happy with our choice to buy small and life debt-free while focusing on living, not working.

  • Emmanuelle July 24, 2013, 4:32 pm

    My partner and I live with our 3-year old in what would probably considered small to tiny in the US, a 80sqm (720 sq ft?) open-plan house. I designed it and built it _before_ the partner and baby came into the picture. Let’s be frank about it: it’s perfect for a single person or a couple, not when there are children. I mean, the size is more than ok (much bigger than the average Parisian apartment), but open plan is a no-no when you have children. So, based on experience, I’d say: small / tiny is ok, it’s all a matter of FLOORPLAN and organisation. Depending on your floorplan, it can be more than adequate, or a catastrophe (and everything in between).

    • Kate July 29, 2013, 1:51 am

      We, 2 adults, 4 teens and a 6 year old, live in a 93sqm house (about 1,000sq ft).

      I believe it all comes down to the floor plan. The house was built in 1935 and we have altered the back veranda into a bedroom and family room giving us a total of 4 bedrooms-1 very large, 1 bathroom, 1 living room, 1 combined eat in kitchen/family room and a laundry.

      No one complains of lack of space or privacy. In fact the 5 children get along much better in a smaller home.

    • Kate July 29, 2013, 1:51 am

      We, 2 adults, 4 teens and a 6 year old, live in a 93sqm house (about 1,000sq ft).

      I believe it all comes down to the floor plan. The house was built in 1935 and we have altered the back veranda into a bedroom and family room giving us a total of 4 bedrooms-1 very large, 1 bathroom, 1 living room, 1 combined eat in kitchen/family room and a laundry.

      No one complains of lack of space or privacy. In fact the 5 children get along much better in a smaller home.

  • Liz July 24, 2013, 4:34 pm

    When my son was little, we moved into cohousing. All the little kids loved it. The only people who didn’t like it were the teens. Teens who grow up here love it, so that’s not the problem. The problem was that teens do NOT like having their lives disrupted and they don’t like moving to a place they didn’t choose. I would never move into a tiny house with a teen unless it was THEIR idea.

  • jerryd July 24, 2013, 4:37 pm

    It’s easy Alex, you just start with 2 people and the kids grow up with it as normal.

    Many have raised families in smaller than out TH’s in sailboats cruising where they want.

    For those starting with kids trying vacationing in a small cabin, trailer,TH or houseboat to see how things work.

  • Susannah July 24, 2013, 5:37 pm

    I lived for a year in a medium-sized mobil home with my 5 children, 3 of them teenagers, a dog, a cat and a hamster. It worked out fine. We could have gone smaller without problems, and we did; for about six months after a move and until I bought a larger house, we lived in half of a 14 x 14 house, sharing with another family of 5 + a dog.

    The trick is making sure everyone is committed to the idea, maybe with a goal (like buying a house, or a family trip), and still always paying attention to the present. Very Zen.

    Everything has to be evaluated: do we really want this? Do we need it? What other uses can it be turned to? How easily is it replaced? Is it worth stumbling over it for a year to use it once? Can we borrow one for that one time?

    Everything has to be appreciated: that ray of sunlight falling on the flowers on the table, the softness of a pillow, the tidiness of meticulously planned kitchen storage, the comforting snick of the bathroom door locking — privacy! — the closeness of a Christmas dinner with relatives and friends, and a meal cooked on two burners — yes, it can be done.

    This wasn’t a temporary life-style; when we moved into our new home, still small, but with lots of land and a great location, we promptly added to the family; a friend and her son, a couple of foster kids.

  • Alicia July 24, 2013, 5:37 pm

    We are a family of 3 living in an 8×24 foot tiny house. We’ve been living in our house since March, so only 5 months. Our daughter is 2.5, and full of energy! Our house was not entirely completed when we moved into it (problems with our contractor), and so that has added a great deal of strife to our tiny house living so far, with trying to complete an interior tiny space WHILE we are living in it. But, we are making it work by improving the house little by little. I will say that I love the idea of tiny house living, but I must say that perhaps I have become disenchanted with it for now. Is it because our house still has saw dust and screw drivers around? Is it because the house is not finished? Is it because we need more space for three people? I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I would recommend to other potential tiny house families that they think VERY HARD and over a period of time before making the jump to a traditional tiny house.

    • Ryan Wilkins July 25, 2013, 7:18 pm

      I can say from personal experience that rehabbing a house while living in it is a recipe for a lot of unneeded stress. If you are full of DIY spirit but low on actual real-world experience, as we were and probably still are, then you’ve set yourself up for a rough ride. We made it through it and successfully rehabbed the house we were living in, but it did teach us that living in the space that we’re trying to build or rebuild is not a great idea for preserving our sanity. That’s behind us now and the house was sold so hopefully we won’t do the same thing when we finally start on our tiny house build, but things happen.

      Having sawdust and screwdrivers around a small house is bound to cause issues in my opinion. But so is majorly readjusting your life to living small and (hopefully) with less. We went from 2000 sq ft to 1600 sq ft to 1000 sq ft. Next stop, 320 sq ft (8 x 30 w/sleeping loft). I fully expect issues but hopefully we won’t be forced into living in our construction site. Oh and we have three kids so I’m not looking forward to dealing with that if the tiny isn’t done yet.

      I hope things come around for you.

    • Alex July 27, 2013, 11:22 am

      Thanks for sharing Alicia. Wishing you the best. Things will get better.

    • Ralph Sly July 27, 2013, 5:26 pm

      We lived in a house for 12 years, always renovating. We decided to rent it out and move to our vacation home. 1 week later my mouthy brother in law said he was at our old house and man I did a good job completing the construction. I smiled but my wife of the day remarkes, I would like to see what you did over there. I tried to avoid, to no avail. She came through the place, took one look at me and that saintly little gal called me names I didn’t even know she knew. (we could have been living in this) It was empty; I brought in all trades and coordinated the work to run fast and smooth. On the other hand it worked to my advantage; she made me promise not to renovate the other house while we were in it. Living in anything while renovating is not fun.

  • Susannah July 24, 2013, 5:37 pm

    I lived for a year in a medium-sized mobil home with my 5 children, 3 of them teenagers, a dog, a cat and a hamster. It worked out fine. We could have gone smaller without problems, and we did; for about six months after a move and until I bought a larger house, we lived in half of a 14 x 14 house, sharing with another family of 5 + a dog.

    The trick is making sure everyone is committed to the idea, maybe with a goal (like buying a house, or a family trip), and still always paying attention to the present. Very Zen.

    Everything has to be evaluated: do we really want this? Do we need it? What other uses can it be turned to? How easily is it replaced? Is it worth stumbling over it for a year to use it once? Can we borrow one for that one time?

    Everything has to be appreciated: that ray of sunlight falling on the flowers on the table, the softness of a pillow, the tidiness of meticulously planned kitchen storage, the comforting snick of the bathroom door locking — privacy! — the closeness of a Christmas dinner with relatives and friends, and a meal cooked on two burners — yes, it can be done.

    This wasn’t a temporary life-style; when we moved into our new home, still small, but with lots of land and a great location, we promptly added to the family; a friend and her son, a couple of foster kids.

    • Ralph Sly July 24, 2013, 6:13 pm

      Susannah you are a rarity in our breed and a heaven sent one as well, I bet those children turn out to pretty cool adults. You brought back a memory of staying in a small farm house a couple of summers, (no hydro and wood heat) filled with kids. Aunt Margret would always be with us at the table telling stories, someone would say, let’s go and pick berries and my Aunt would say the bears could be out so I don’t want you to go alone but I have (and she would list off a ton of chores) to do these chores first and then we will get the cans and go. Every kid would grab in and the chores got done fast, we even used the baby in dippers to mop spilled water from in front of the inside pump (the baby got a kick out of being dragged across the floor) A home full of laughter and love. I, always seemed to be the only male would volunteer to take the baby but my cousin ask why I wanted to carry the baby so I told her if the bears were there and came after me I would toss the baby to it for a snack, she would get made and take the baby away from me, I still ended up looking macho because I did offer and didn’t have to carry the heavy little sucker. Lots of never ending pranks.

    • libertymen July 24, 2013, 8:12 pm

      Congrats.It is very Zen and not for most people.
      Was the medium size mobile home so awful?
      Seems to be bit of snobbery here as MH are not remotely considered as a housing alternative….You can get a used one for 6K….
      You wont tow it but?

      • Ralph Sly July 25, 2013, 6:42 pm

        Wow, would you have a (unwarranted) slice taken off of you in places like the Okanogan Valley, there were 52 mobile or Manufactured Home Parks in and around Kelowna BC when I left better than 15 years ago. They are most certainly a good alternate to a house, at least back when the pad rent, in parks, was about equal to the property taxes (not mobile taxes) and interest one would pay if purchasing the land alone.

        As a starter home they are excellent equity builders if taken care of in those demand areas. Huge dollars are made on buying one that wasn’t taken care of and without a large investment can be brought up to better standards and sold giving young people good down payments on a stick built home. Millionaires retire in these parks on the lakes and pay way upwards of 6 figures for some of them which come off the line in 5 figures. I will spare you what is probably rhetoric on my authority on the subject but speak with easy provable knowledge. Some small towns are literally built allowing many Manufactured homes on private lots, many use such opportunity to purchase the cheap ones you talk about and move them on, live in them and resale at a good dollar.

        I truly hear where you are coming form with the (seems to be a bit of snobbery), “not at all”, and you should receive no flack on saying it. Many are under that pre-conceived notion because the condemnation of trailer trash has been around for years, magnified through comedy acts & shows. Of course you are right in some cases of small parks but not in the majority, by any stretch of the imagination.

      • Susannah July 25, 2013, 10:09 pm

        No, the medium-size mobile home was by no means “so awful”. It was perfect for us at the time (although, used and all, it wasn’t anywhere near $6,000). Except for one thing: location. Residential at the time, but fast converting to industrial. By now, it is all industry fringed with big box stores and new highways. What was our field next door is now all machinery and high walls.

        We sold, and moved a few hundred miles north.

  • Garth July 24, 2013, 6:35 pm

    It is normal for families in places like Japan to live in spaces that many Americans would consider to be much too small to be livable. I’m also thinking of the homeschool family of five IIRC that I saw on YouTube that was sailing around the world and had very little space but they were happy with it. I suppose it’s a state of mind, in addition to just making better use of space than we typically do in the U.S.. Kids are more likely to adjust to changes. It’s the parents that have the trouble.

  • Dan in Kentucky July 24, 2013, 7:08 pm

    After living in traditional housing for 45 years, we had the opportunity to purchase an Amish house (no electricity) and farm. The house is 600 square ft. Very tiny! We are a retired couple with many indoor animals. We have not changed the footprint, but have made many improvements – first electricity after one year. We realized we had no room for our many guests so we had a 14×32 guest house built, which everyone really loves – very private. Next came hobbies. A garage for my model A’s- 24×40. My wife scrapbooks and sews so she needed space that our small area could not give her. She now has two 140 sf buildings. We have a compound that really looks like a small village. We are considering another small building to rent out. We love our farm life and have adjusted to living in a small space.

    • Cahow July 25, 2013, 4:54 pm

      To Dan or anyone else who cares to comment: (by the way, my question is NOT snark nor meant to be mean, so cool it with nasty remarks, please!)

      Okay, so this is what confuses me when people talk about “living in a tiny house” but then they have a bazillion “out-buildings” that hold guests, hobbies and businesses. What in the world is the difference between having a one-story ranch house with attached garage that holds guests, hobbies and offices VS. a tiny house, another tiny house and yet another tiny house? Square footage is square footage and it seems to my silly mind that if a person says they “live in” a 200+ square foot home but then have 5-10 “sheds” to run their ebay business, work on cars, house friends, brew beer….that in truth, they’ve just “blown apart” the walls of a traditional house into a bunch of micro-homes.

      Isn’t this the same thing only less economical? At least in snowy and cold Michigan, it would be, where any outbuilding that a person sat inside of for more than 30 minutes would need heating/cooling/electric if they had guests or serious hobbies like sewing or auto tinkering.

      Again, my question isn’t meant to incite riots: if a person wants 8 different tiny houses to each house a different function, more power to them! It just doesn’t seem very economical, however, and has a very low resale value when it’s time to sell the property. In Michigan, homes with attached garages vs. free-standing, are snapped up, 1-2-3! Maybe it’s different down South where it’s warm and I’m thinking like a Yankee where everything has to be buttoned up and snug to stay warm and keep energy costs low.

      • msdanapants February 8, 2014, 3:39 am

        OmG this post made me laugh. I am sitting here reading all these things and thinking the same thing.. how is this “tiny living” if you have 2 or more tiny houses and a shed and so on? The only thing i understood about the helpfulness of having 2 tiny houses would be that it would be paid off by the time your kid needed to take it to college or if you wanted to have it for a vacation home in another location. But I am with Cahow, what is the difference in having all these “tiny houses” if they just add up to one big house? I do think a tiny house and one shed is ok. I mean crap, you have to have a place to store your lawn mower, tools, etc. but there is no way in H@## that i would let my teen sleep in their own tiny house without supervision. That in my opinion is just asking for trouble. But parenting choices happens to be a totally different topic here so i will just stop at that. I have been researching on this tiny house living thing because i am interested in doing it. But i too would like to see one in person. It’s difficult to commit to something so small without seeing it in person with the right perspective first. Blocking off rooms in a house is an ok idea, but really it can’t mimic what it would be like in a tiny house that has a 3 foot height for a loft. Unless of course you want to pretend for a week by crawling on your knees to get into your normal bed. For me, i have to see the layout in person, i have to see the walls, where drawers are located, how many shelves it has, and how big they are.. only then would i be able to access whether the stuff i want to keep would even fit in that space. I mean i am certain there are ways to make it work with awesome organizational skills, but if you are a person who doesn’t have these, it would be a nightmare. Not everyone knows how to organize things to fit in small spaces. But again, different people have different needs and different preferences. I am a person who likes to cook, so there are things in the kitchen that would have to go with me, and you better believe i would find space for them. Having different floor plans makes it easier to find the tiny house that suites your needs. The biggest thing is too assess what you have, what you can’t live without, and what you can get rid of. You really need to understand and know where your belongings would actually go if chosing to move into this tiny space (especially with another person or a family). I am married and have 2 cats and 1 small dog, but my husband is military and he has 2 wardrobes. That in itself is like having an extra person in the house because of his military clothing and equipment. I think that he and i could do the tiny house thing, but we would definitely need a floor plan that can accommodate our need for storage. I like the tiny house idea verses a traditional RV because the tiny house is made completely out of wood. Atleast with the tiny house you can add tiny shelves where you may need them, in a traditional RV, it is more difficult because the walls are just thin panels. I would like to do the tiny house idea as a temporary solution to save pay off debt, build retirement, then i would have saved enough money to have purchased land and to build a modest home and have it paid in full. Then my tiny house can be used as a vacation spot at the beach or when we go camping. But yes, everyone has to be in agreement with the downsizing or it will be a miserable move. My husband is not 100% convinced that we would be able to do it. And i am not going to force him to do something that he doesn’t want to do, if he is not going to be at peace with the idea, space or with me. But we are still talking about it and i am just researching the info to see if it is something that we really want to do. The thought of having a goal of doing it to be debt free is very appealing to me. That in itself, makes it easier to get rid of stuff. Far as the family thing, i would not know, because i do not have a family of 5 or any children for that matter. But i have 3 animals that need their space so that is another thing that i would have to consider before purchasing. I am always amazed by people in other countries like Japan who can have a whole family living in such tiny quarters. We as Americans i think have a different mindset and i think Media/marketing and the way we were raised has a lot to do with it. We consume too much because the world says we need it. And we are obsessed with comfort and convenience. I think living tiny would definitely be a learning experience.

  • Bill Burgess July 24, 2013, 7:11 pm

    Patterns for Living in Soldotna Alaska says if you don’t use it in 12 months, you probably don’t need it.

  • Bill Durham July 24, 2013, 8:04 pm

    It’s rare that an entrepreneur such as yourself will give an honest assessment about a product he/she is trying to make popular.I applaud your written opinion with regards to the Family of FIVE….This only makes me more interested in your stuff because of your obvious integrity…I recently purchased “The Small House” to read on Kindle and was disappointed to see that although the pictures and the graphics came through perfectly none of the script did,,,i would gladly purchase and download again if ya’ll( I’m a Reb,get over it) could fix it…Thanks Buddy

  • libertymen July 24, 2013, 8:08 pm

    Moderation in all things people.A family of five in 200sqft,WHY?
    You would think that affordable housing of modest size was just discovered.
    Well guess what?
    That is the way most people live.It always has been,always will be.
    To state that modest homes are a new thing,astounds me.
    Until 1960 the average home was around 1000sq ft.
    That is 32by 22 in a Cape with the upstairs figured at half the first floor because of a slanting ceiling.That is pretty small.
    Lots of after WW2 starter houses were this size.
    For the life of me I cant see houses this small except as a vacation camp.
    Lofts-ladders are only usable for a certain number of folks.Many wont like using them on a regular basis.Believe me,I have done it.
    Go to the Historic American Building survey online and check out all the small houses,Measured and pics.

  • BigPaul July 25, 2013, 1:40 am

    I have read stories of people who raised families in homes as ‘small’ as 900 sq. ft. Including one family ,of 13, who lived in a small home that was two stories and 1100 sq. ft. I also read the part about the children leaving home at age 16 because they had enough! SMALL has its place to be sure. If two people re totally compatible, Tiny works. But if two people come together but are as different as December and July, these people should never even consider Tiny, unless they are going to share a large lot and have a separate space for day time activities. Maybe a large garage/workshop 20 feet, or more, from the tiny house. The man sleeps and eats in the Tiny but the Tiny House is actually the Ladies Home. I live in a 1200 Sq. Ft. mobile home now and it is driving me to my wits end not having a garage. We do get along, but if we have a spat, there is no way to cool down apart from each other. I have too much stuff so does she, so who’s ‘stuff’ has to go. Well guess what, it’s MY Stuff that has to go. I am looking for a separate place to put my life as a very Mechanical and Artistic person who loves to build, make, modify and beautify everything. My creativity is quietly being crushed, I am very unhappy and I HATE it! Worst of all I am stuck, I don’t have any place to put my stuff and I am facing her deadline to get rid if my collection. I fear this is going to break some how. I am trying to understand, I am trying to be considerate but I am a Man and it is not easy. It hurts me and there is nothing I can do but the thing I hate most in life. I have to ‘settle!”

    • Ralph Sly July 25, 2013, 7:32 pm

      Oh, Paul, be careful my friend, and I thought it was only a me thing. LOL, try the word NO and watch what hits the fan. I am now dwelling alone, with some of my stuff, more to come when I want it here and then more later. My stuff and me are very happy for some unusual reason and I have so much uninterrupted time to enjoy it all. I do have company now and again, at their place, where they have their stuff…

    • Alex Pino February 3, 2014, 10:06 am

      Wishing you the best here BigPaul hope you can find a way to make it all work. I started a discussion on artistic people and tiny houses and ask the question, “is it even possible for artistic people to live tiny without having a separate structure for our art?”: http://tinyhousetalk.com/how-much-space-does-an-artist-need/

  • Rev W July 25, 2013, 2:40 am

    You can easily figure out reasonable space for the number of people you’re housing, the same way you figure out enclosure space for zoo animals. If two people can live comfortably in (example only!) 200 sq ft, but will quickly hate each other in 175, you’re looking at 100sq ft per person. Large groups often need slightly less aggregate space because social animals tend to flock, herd or clump.

  • ElTee July 25, 2013, 5:15 am

    I agree that under 200sf is ambitious and probably impractical. That said, when I think of a family in a ‘Tiny House’ it brings to mind one of the houses that was featured here some time (don’t ask me when, I devoured a bunch of posts when I joined in June) of THs with a roof that slants only one way & the houses are designed so if your family grows (or you just want more space or to run a business out of it etc) you can slot two (or more) together and put a door through. That would be ideal in this case. You’d have a 10 x 20 house where the kitchen, shower room & parents sleep and a second (that’s flipped so the roof slant goes the other way forming a traditional house pitch/peak between the two) that’s divided into two bedrooms (one for the 5yos and the other for the 15 yo). Tiny House living in 400sf (and you could add a large deck along one side to give outdoor space for dining etc in good weather). You might even be able to reduce that to 8 x 20 (either for 1 or both) or put the bathroom in the kids bedroom side and have more living/kitchen space in the other. I think anything significantly less than that and it would be resentment waiting to happen: 15yr olds and 5yos aren’t designed to share bedspace if it can be helped, it would just be unfair on all concerned since they have little in common and they need different things from their bedrooms (especially the 15yo who needs privacy and to be able to study uninterrupted and not be forced out of their bedroom at 7pm when the younger kids need to sleep). It could actually be a fun challenge to see what the minimum size you could build that would give privacy to the 15yo (for study etc) & the 5yos (for earlier bed times) & parents. So tempted now lol.

    Someone in the FB comments said they disagreed with you, and called you a negative nancy, but then was saying they had 8 people with 2 per TH, which I believe actually highlights your point. Those 8 people might be doing TH living but they aren’t 8 people in one tiny house, they’re in 4 (5 with the cabin), which assuming an average sf of 180 for each TH, actually = 720sf, but they also mentioned a family cabin, presumably for meals etc, so probably more like 900-1000sf depending on the size of each. I guess it depends how contained each individual TH is, I mean if each one has a kitchen, bathroom, living & sleeping area for 2 people then they’d theoretically have to be bigger than if they were just a toilet and sleeping space for 2, so I guess, if you were just sleeping in it 60-100sf for each TH would be fine, but that also depends on ages and relationship of the 2 sharing, are they a couple or two siblings/cousins (are they same or opposite gender), 1 parent/1 child, etc, these things all matter to what kind of space they would need.

    The guidelines in the UK seem to be that under 10 years old children of opposite sex can reasonably share, but over 10 they shouldn’t, between <16 children of same sex can share, then 16+ they can expect a room of their own (though these guidelines are taken from what the government will fund – through housing benefit – for social housing of families,
    EG. A family of 4: a couple with 1 boy & 1 girl both under 10 are only given funding for 2 bedrooms, but once one of the children turn 10 they will receive funding for 3 bedrooms; however, if the family had 2 girls they would get funding for only 2 bedrooms until 1 of the girls turned 16 and as long as the 16 yo still lived at home they could then get funding for a 3 bedroom) these seem pretty good guidelines but it doesn't really take into account the age spread, I mean, just because they're both girls would it really be fair for a 15 yo to share with a 2yo? Conversely, if you have 16 & 17 yo the same sex then I see no reason why they shouldn't share, especially if they've shared all their lives, they probably won't care.

  • Glema July 25, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Hello Everyone,
    Just a couple suggestions if I may. 1. take a survey from the family you want to live in the tiny house with. People here love tiny houses but it is THEY whom you love that will be living in it with you. ASK them if they would consider it. If agreeable to consideration, Rent a tiny house for say a two week vacation together as a “trial”. 2. take a survey from those who live with you in that small place AFTER the vacation. Think of pertinent questions to ask them on the survey ie comfortability of each, privacy factors, health and happiness factors, etc. THEN you can make a more informed decision and realistic evaluation of the dream. God bless you one and all. Tiny House “living” is a dream for me, I know hubby would NOT do it so…….I dream and I will get one eventually at least for camping and vacations, visiting relatives in other cities and states. I may not get to live in it it all year, but I will have my moments too. You see, my family, loves me too so, there is hope. I keep dreaming, designing, and saving little things I want to furnish it with. It WILL happen, is only a question of when God is willing to allow it and I am willing to follow through on HIS precious little gift. Hope springs eternal, keep hoping!

    • gingerperth August 8, 2013, 7:11 pm

      i agree with surveying the family attitudes and ideas before downsizing. but if i was a kid i’d want to know WHY should we downsize? the biggest advantages are reducing debt, heating/cooling costs, maintenance costs, etc. why should kids care about these things? because then the parents are not locked in to working long hours in jobs they may hate, while stressing out over debt. so would the parents work shorter hours, at jobs they like and be more laid back and available for spending time with the kids? would the family be able to afford to do things together which are too expensive (in time or money) when overheads are high? you need to sell the benefits to the kids and stick to your promises that there will be wonderful benefits to them. for school-aged kids, they will be thinking that moving into a tiny house would be an embarrassment with their friends (“we are such losers, we have to live in a shed”) but turning it into a plus by trading off the lack of space for more time and family fun (travel, a boat, a pony?) could turn it into a status thing.

      • Alex Pino February 3, 2014, 10:09 am

        Good points and very well said Gingerperth, thank you

  • doc July 25, 2013, 4:30 pm

    Hello all,
    This is all relative for the family in question. It is for them to try, for them to consider what the possibilities are for them. I was raised in a 2000 sq ft four br one bath home. Not tiny by our standards here. But, that was a family with 15 children and mom and dad. Was it great? Not often. Did we fight? Often. We would have done that in twice the space though. Would some of us have done things differently? Most likely. Myself, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Memories of popcorn nite and tv, board games at all hours and the conversations at this huge supper table where the family gathered to actually eat a meal together! You worry about teenagers, they can be happy/ miserable in any square footage. They will survive. So will you. I turned out OK too. Depending on who you talk to 🙂 mom and dad finished out two more br in the basement to keep the peace but later removed two br when they found out if you build it they will come…back! So… tiny is relative and you never know what family can do if they have a mind to! So I say go for it and with gusto. 🙂 great job here by the way and thanks for the time to ramble.
    Doc

  • James July 30, 2013, 11:23 am

    It is only my opinion, however, I believe that 200 sq ft or less can work for singles, couples or families with 1 or 2 young children ( up to 3 year olds ). In keeping with the “making most use of less space”, I would add 50 sq ft per child over 3 years old. Yes that would be a small room, yet with proper design it would be plenty for a child to sleep and play in. Like I said at the beginning, it is only my opinion and would be different for different people. Just remember, even though the Government would have you think other wise, One Size Does Not Fit All.

  • jim B July 30, 2013, 3:04 pm

    i knew 2 brothers in high school whose family live in a two bedroom small house. the parents had one room and the sister had the other. The two brothers live outback in “The Bunk House” which had 4 bunks so they could even have friends over night! They built it themselves.

  • Kim August 4, 2013, 8:13 pm

    Actually this was my question…. You had some great advice- especially about decluttering! Just to clarify, I was speaking of the tumbleweed B-53 (877 sq. ft) from the link that I saw on your site. I was referring to it as a “tiny house” but think maybe I used the incorrect verbage being new to this! Looking more into 900-1200 square feet.
    Thanks again for your input!

  • Eugene September 4, 2013, 3:26 pm

    I am currently working on plans for a 3 bedroom 2 level small house of only 576 sq ft with both levels being 12×24 (288 sq ft) pretty much all the bedroom furnishing will be either modular or built in, all bedrooms and main bath are on the second level. This is for a family of 8 (6 kids). I personally think it is the smallest you could get away with for a family of 4 or more especially with male and female children.

  • David Ridge September 4, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Uh, excuse me but in the silhouette look where the boy has his hand and the girls have their hands!

  • Aiyana January 31, 2014, 3:22 pm

    I imagine a tiny house of 200 sf would be too small for all the functions of a family of 5, but what about having two tiny “houses”–a living space for cooking, bathing, playing, and noise, and a sleeping space (easier to build–no plumbing) for quiet functions.

    Or how about building a tiny house with and for the teenager? As they get older they can have more privacy and independence (and responsibility). And they can take it with them when they leave home (for college or work).

  • Linda January 31, 2014, 6:15 pm

    I truly don’t believe a family can live in a tiny home. I can see them using it as a summer cabin for vacation, but honestly, I think it would break up the family. It’s difficult enough for a couple to share such a tiny space without fighting, let alone an entire family. But I believe a family can live in a small house… just not a TINY house.

  • Renée Martin February 1, 2014, 6:33 am

    My family of four and I currently reside in a 1200 square foot house. I know that we could downsize given how much space we currently use in our home; however, each of my sons would need their own room. I cannot emphasize enough how important privacy is to children. They need their own space to decompress like adult. Each of my sons rooms is 100 square feet. It’S not expansive by the time you put in a single bed and a dresser but I to necessary. We are a close family who gets along well but without this division we would be at each other’s throats. Living tiny is great but you have to be realistic and think about family dynamics.

    That said my husband and I are going to build a tiny home but have no intention of moving in full time until our kids leave for college.

  • AL February 18, 2014, 8:59 pm

    Lots of comments here about whether a family can do this or not! Wow! 😉 I think anything is possible. As someone said above, families in Japan (& other places) easily live in small places quite happily. I think any family (American or otherwise) can do whatever they wish as long as they put what is truly important to them in the forefront (outdoor space/garden, storage, etc.). To each their own! 🙂 Actually, if they wish, they can make anything work for them. Best wishes to everyone!!!

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