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72-year-old Woman goes Tiny: Simple Retirement in a 166 Sq. Ft. Cabin

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Bette Presley, of Arroyo Grande, was already living relatively small before she decided to go tiny.

She downsized from her Grandmothers’ Club mobile home park into her own Tumbleweed Tiny House of just 166 square feet.

Part of the goal, she says, is to save her five adult children from having to go through all of her belongings when she passes.

Even better, she hopes she can completely avoid having to go into a nursing home and instead, just stay in her beautiful Tumbleweed cabin.

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72-year-old Woman goes Tiny: Simple Retirement in a 166 Sq. Ft. Cabin

Image Credit: Gayle Cuddy for The Tribune

Since the clutter is now gone, she can enjoy nature, live simply, and enjoy her family more.

With a tiny house, there’s just not really that much maintenance anymore.

So it frees up a lot of time and resources for anything else you might want to do.

Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, it isn’t super easy or simple to get set up.

Building a tiny house is a lot of work, but it sure is worth it.

Learn more about how to build a tiny cabin or tiny house on wheels.

I’ve also covered how long it takes to build tiny here.

Before the big move to tiny Bette had been researching the lifestyle for 10 years by reading books, going to a workshop, and talking with other like-minded people about it.

The Small House Book by Jay Shafer was a big inspiration for her. Classic book!

She recently cleared most of her unwanted belongings from her previous mobile home which included getting rid of her:

  • TV,
  • microwave,
  • couch,
  • extra beds,
  • large chairs,
  • computer,
  • printer,
  • lamps,
  • table,
  • and more!

She still has a laptop, cell phone, and radio to entertain herself.

And, of course, her new tiny house has a kitchenette, mini refrigerator, bathroom, and A/C.

At just 8′ x 24′ it’s a truly tiny home. But inside you’ll still find a platform twin bed downstairs, plenty of built-in shelving for storage, and there’s even an upstairs sleeping loft with a queen bed for guests.

Since Bette is inspired not just by living simply but also to go off the grid, she will soon be adding enough solar panels to go completely off-grid.

Congratulation on your new found freedom, Bette! We’re really happy for you!

Read the original article here.

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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!
{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Will Byrd
    January 2, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Congratulations to Bette!! I wonder if her house was custom built or how it works out to have a twin platform bed on the lower level? For most of us who are considering this option for retirement, it’s important to have something like that and I just wonder how it works out as far as space? I note also that her home is in a temporary location in SLO until she can dispose of her mobile, etc. My question regarding this is if she will be able to find a permanent place for it to rent, or will it be necessary to purchase a piece of property for it? Thanks!! This option for retirement living is sounding better all the time!!

    • Doris
      January 2, 2014, 3:44 pm

      Bette strikes me as a sharp cookie, and should not have any problem finding someone like me who would gladly offer a responsible person a roomy bit of land in a great location, for rent or for purchase. But who the heck would want to buy? She just got rid of all that. Heck, she could just come here and camp for a decade or two 🙂 Smiles to all.

    • Brenda Roberson
      May 8, 2015, 10:43 am

      I am going to sell a small home and then build a tiny home, my dream on an acre of land so I can have a little privacy and a huge garden. This will happen in the Auburn area of Washington and I would like to get acquainted with other Tiny Home builders in that area. If you read this and are in that area, I want to meet or at least correspond with other Tiny Home enthusiasts to share ideas and information. Thanks

  • LaMar
    January 2, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Good for her! A lot of people that contact me about small cabin designs are older. Many no longer need a big house but they can’t get another mortgage on a small house because of age so they are opting to build their own for cash. Lose the mortgage and utility bills and they can live on a small retirement amount and have more left for their kids or nice vacations.

    Small houses are easier to clean and cheap to heat and cool and can be outfitted for a wheel chair so people can stay independent longer. park it in your kids yard instead of going into a nursing home.


    • Alex Pino
      January 2, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Then LaMar, and happy new year! Best wishes,

    • Kelly Libert
      May 9, 2015, 9:43 am

      “Many no longer need a big house but they can’t get another mortgage on a small house because of age”
      Not true.
      It is illegal to discriminate because of age. If she qualifies for a loan financially, she CAN get one. I was in banking for many years. Only the numbers count.

      • LaMar
        May 9, 2015, 9:50 am

        Bologna! Banks say they do not discriminate but try to get a 30 year mortgage when you are past 60.

        Unless you have collateral and massive savings it will never happen.

        Age discrimination is rampant in housing.

      • Kelly Libert
        May 9, 2015, 1:44 pm

        Nope LaMar. The bank will have a lien and will be the first paid when the inheritors probate the estate.
        If the inheritors neglect to pay the remaining mortgage, the bank will foreclose and sell the house at auction. Any difference, after all legal fees and auction commissions are paid, between the sale price and what remains on the mortgage, will become the legal responsibility of the inheritors.
        They will get what is owed to them one way or another. That is all they care about.

  • Nerida
    January 2, 2014, 8:00 pm

    My first reaction to this article was “Pity there arent some internal shots”. Then I read the newspaper article and the response from her niece. My 2nd response was “Pity this article and this post ever got published”. However maybe her niece will get some help out of going public. It is truly a sad situation. Just because a lady is old, does not necessarily mean she is nice. There are reasons why people are left on their own when they get older, they reap what they sew. I cant imagine any of my aunts doing anything like this but it just shows you cant trust anyone where money is concerned.

    • Will Byrd
      January 2, 2014, 11:13 pm

      Nerida, I read what I thought was the Tribune news piece, but I didn’t s a response from her niece. Where could that be found? Thanks.

      • cptacek
        January 3, 2014, 12:08 am

        In the facebook comments below the article.

      • Nerida
        January 3, 2014, 7:38 am


        Under the article is a comments section. The niece is Renee Riece. You have to work backwards a little to put the family tree together.

        And maybe Renee’s comments werent there when this was posted. I didnt check time/date etc.

        • Nerida
          January 3, 2014, 7:41 am

          Sorry thats Riess (hope I got it right this time) not Riece.

  • Jake Levi
    January 3, 2014, 8:58 am

    I agree on the costs, the material is very good, but, it could still have been home built for less, but, she bought it, not built it. Thats a big difference right there. I myself dont care for a loft, so can have a lower roof. Lot of heating saved right there. I am planning on thick insulation in mine, plus double tongue in groove walls, one vertical outside, and a horizontal inside. With insulation in between. My planned max length is 20′, with only 18′ for living space, but a 2′ ‘porch/stoop’ and 2′ roof overhang. A single bed across the bow end, and counters on one side. And overhead cabinets ala Home Depot. It will be well under her $25,000 but each to their own.

    Tom I’d like to see some of your projects.


  • Ruth Ruddock
    January 3, 2014, 11:33 am

    This was wonderful to read about, and I have to give this lady a big hand!
    However, it is not as easy to find a place to park tiny homes as one may think, and as many are discovering. Most people are not fortunate to have enough land, farther out in the country where the zoning police aren’t lurking around every tree, to chase people off the land when they park a motor home or put up a tiny house. I live with my sister for now, in the country, and I can’t even park an RV in the yard to live in…can’t do hook ups for septic system, etc. I’m sure it will be easier in years to come…I hope!! Meanwhile, my best to you all, and may your dreams come true in 2014!

    • Brenda Roberson
      May 8, 2015, 10:35 am

      Thanks for putting your comments, I did not realize what you are saying about where to put a tiny home can be a problem, right now I am in NC fixing to move to Auburn area of Washington, selling my small 2 bedroom home in plans to build a tiny home in WA on perhaps one acre and be debt free Had no idea I might have problems doing this. If you have any suggestions please share. [email protected]

  • Brenda Roberson
    May 8, 2015, 10:31 am

    Woman, you are an inspiration! Thanks for your example, it really cuts to the bone, I intend to follow your example shortly, wish I could be a neighbor for a month, would love to pick your brain, I am fixing to sell my small home and build a tiny house.

    Brenda Roberson

  • Debra VS
    May 8, 2015, 12:50 pm

    I went to the original article and didn’t find any posts talking about the family problems, though some there did refer to them. {Shrugs shoulders} Families usually go through lots of crap after someone dies.

  • Diana
    May 8, 2015, 3:09 pm

    Now this is an ispirational story! Thanks Bette for having the intelligence and insight and most of all heart to take this step foward. This just proves that age isn’t the problem!!!!
    many blessings kiddo!

  • Gale
    May 8, 2015, 3:33 pm

    For one thing, she does not look 72! Congratulations on her new home. But would love to see inside.

  • Maria
    May 8, 2015, 7:38 pm

    would love to have seen what the inside looked like.

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