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Couple Build Mortgage-free 129 Sq. Ft. Tiny Home

In this post I wanted to share the story of how this young couple left their apartment life and built their own 128 sq. ft. tiny home on wheels that’s 100% mortgage-free.

When they started, they really didn’t know much about building a house. They just learned and adapted as they went. And they did it.

Now, after much hard work and sweat, they have the simple lifestyle that they once only dreamed of. A debt-free life that’s sustainable. And they did it all themselves. Now that’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?

Please enjoy, talk about this inspiring story in the comments, and re-share it down below if you’d like to. Thank you.

Jess and Dan’s Mortgage-free Tiny House Story


Image © CustomMade.com

Video: Scaling Down – One Couple Builds a Tiny Life


Images © CustomMade/Youtube

jess-and-dan-couple-tiny-house-story-custommade-02 jess-and-dan-couple-tiny-house-story-custommade-03 jess-and-dan-couple-tiny-house-story-custommade-04 jess-and-dan-couple-tiny-house-story-custommade-05

Images © CustomMade/Youtube

Video: Scaling Down – One Couple Builds a Tiny Life

Original story with interview and more photos at CustomMade.


Our big thanks to Janel Crisp Goodwin for sharing this story with us!

If you enjoyed this young couple’s journey towards building their own tiny house and simple life you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more! Thank you!

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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!
{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    October 7, 2014, 6:03 pm

    Nice video, Nice Couple. Very well-educated and convincing about their pathway in life. I wish the two of them future success with all their dreams!

    I do have a general question to toss out to the web, however. WHAT in the World is this much over-used phrase “Simple Living” or “Simple Lifestyle” all about?

    See, as I see it, whether you live in 100 square feet or 1000 square feet, unless you are a trust fund baby and have a maid to dress you, prepare your meals and clean for you, you STILL must a) have a job; b) wash your clothes; c) get food and prepare it; d) clean your dwelling and e) keep your body clean.

    Okay, so a 100 sq.ft. house takes a shorter amount of time to clean than a 1000 sq.ft. home. Got it.

    But, my turning on the tap to get water vs. having to haul in your water or pump it from a well, sure isn’t ‘simple’. My walking to my washing machine/drier in the pantry and tossing in dirty clothes sure is a lot more ‘simple’ than bundling everything together and biking into town to do the wash. I can take a shower 24/7 rather than making a trip to the gym to take a shower because I have no running water. And my going to a salad bar at Whole Foods to create a salad is a whole lot more “simple” than raising food from scratch and doing battle with bugs, drought and groundhogs! (I was raised on a dairy farm without running water, indoor plumbing, electricity or phone so I DO know what I’m talking about!!!) I do love the irony that no matter how “Way Back Machine” everyone claims to be, there is ALWAYS a laptop and Wi-Fi around! Make your own butter, brew your own beer, create your own soap, card your own wool, but dang it, give me my youtube!!! LOL

    So, some kind person, please educate me on HOW what this couple and other couples like them are doing, is any less “simple” than what I am doing? ‘Cause the way I see it, my life is pretty darn simple and fulfilling.

    • JanneZack
      April 27, 2015, 9:53 pm

      Cahow! I’m with YOU! This is a very nice build. I love all the wood and the stories behind each one plus the fact/pride that they built it themselves. (My grandpa built his own house and it was probably about 500 sq. ft., so it was luxurious over this, but HAD running water, but no bathroom. I think they still did the big tub on the kitchen floor kind of bath.).

      I agree with you in that washing your clothes on a rock down by the river is NOT simple. I agree we should all be more conscious about our “carbon footprint”, and I know that there are GMOs in our foods and glutons are bad for us… etc. but reality has to set in at some point.

      Time is a precious commodity. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor, you only get 24 hours. So, I’m afraid everyone has to learn what is important and what isn’t important. Downsizing your wardrobe and home, great start, but spending all that time growing veges, (not to mention where to store winter veges?) is a big problem.

      I won’t say this about everyone who goes “a la-natural” but eventually I think they will tire of the carrying water bit. (I WOULD, in less than one day!).

      But, it is awfully pretty.

      The ONLY thing I don’t like about this house: The photo where she is chopping veges on the counter top that appears to be part of their staircase/ladder. That’s just gross. No feet on my counters please, or just don’t prep food there. It may have been staged that way just for the photo…. ? I hope. Well, and no shower or running water.

    • Heather
      April 28, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Hi Cahow,
      I agree with you in part….for my husband and myself, we built a THOW and live in 130 sq ft as well. We wanted to start living a simpler lifestyle and felt that this would help us achieve that(atleast for now). We’re not trying to save up for a bigger home later on or anything like that. We sold our 1300 sq ft home close to the beach and started building our tiny house. For us living a simpler life meant spending less time for material things and more time with each other and focusing on our spiritual needs. Not having television but only having our iPads to watch an occasional movie and also still be able to get any “work” done via use of them. Our iPads also help us when traveling and stay in contact with friends(although I do still love to letter write). We do agree that some modern conveniences make life easier/simpler…we opted to have a washer/dryer combo in our Tiny House instead of going to the laundromat all the time, hauling the loads and spending money for every load. We have well water so it’s free for us. Plus the fact that we have paired our clothes down to very little which means they get used quite often and therefore means a few more washes. So I can throw in a load of laundry, finish my dishes and sit down to relax in just a few moments. No wasting gas to get to a laundromat and giving all our money away to the machines. So obviously we do have some plumbing but we still bring in separate drinking water. But that’s no extra task. Living off the land would be great! However we figured having an entire farm would take up most of our time and would not allow us to focus on what’s more important to us and yes where would we store all that food?? So we choose to grow a very small garden and maybe one day have a few chickens for the eggs, and shop for the rest at the farmers markets. I could go on and on about what “living a simpler life” is for us, but basically it’s going to mean something different to each and everyone. For someone else it could mean downsizing from a 3000 sq ft home to a 1300 sq ft home and from the Northern states to sunny Florida where they no longer have to shovel snow and and gather wood for their fireplace. As much as we would love to have a ranch with cows and horses(in an ideal world), it just doesn’t allow us to live a simplified life helping us focus on what goals are important to us right now. Oh and our cost for electricity in the past 11 months has only been $40! I’d say pretty darn awesome in comparison to the average costs! I think the whole idea behind the Tiny Houses is not necessarily just to live a simpler life but it creates a route that allows some of us to reach goals for ourselves, things that are more important to us.

      • Cahow
        April 28, 2015, 6:46 pm

        Hi, Heather. What a beautifully written reply you wrote. It’s through an open dialogue of different visions that we can all benefit and learn. I deeply appreciate learning about you and your husbands outlook on life; thank you. <3

    • Grace
      November 9, 2015, 7:31 pm

      Well, I think that you would not feel freedom like tiny housers do. It is a different lifestyle but a rewarding one. I’ve grown plants (never actually lived on a farm) and I love the satisfaction of it.
      Also, you are able to do a lot more things that you couldn’t do.
      A huge part of this movement is the cost aspect and you can be sure that in this way this is way more simple in a tiny house than in a 2,000 square foot house. Because of this you don’t have to work as hard to make a bunch of money that you have to put into your house. Then, you have got plenty of time to do all of those things you are talking about without getting stressed to the point of breaking down. You can also do so much more with all of your extra time and just live a carefree life style of happiness.

  • sgl
    October 8, 2014, 12:47 am

    while your lifestyle looks simple from your perspective, it’s actually incredibly complex behind the scenes. eg, those salad greens at whole foods probably have made a long (and very oil dependent) trip (some estimate 1,500 miles). and in the event of any disruption of any of those long supply lines (eg, hurricane, industrial accident, snowstorm, labor strike, rioting), your supply lines may well be cut, and you may well be without food, or water, or electricity, or water, or … on a temporary basis. if peak oil is true (and i strongly suspect it is), much of the current “american way of life” will be forced to change permanently, instead of a temporarily. also, more expensive lifestyles tie you more strongly to your job. if you love your job and make a healthy income and it’s stable, good for you. however, many people don’t have jobs that meet those criteria.

    while the below is about tv and cars, the same general principle holds re: food re: dependence on a vast infrastructure, with various gov’t agencies and corps that are doing what’s good for them, not what’s good for you. the whole essay is worth reading, (as is everything by the author), but the excerpt below gives a concise summary of the issue of “simplicity”:

    For most Americans, television has come to represent the experience of collective participation, and yet the flickering lights in the suburban windows serve as a reminder that few activities are more solitary or more isolating. In precisely the same way, the freedom represented by the car moving down the open road is a pathetic illusion; from the immense government programs that build and maintain those open roads, through the gargantuan corporate systems that produce the cars, to the sprawling global network of oilfields, pipelines, refineries, and the rest of the colossal system that transforms fossil hydrocarbons into the gas that keeps the car going, there are few human activities on Earth that depend more completely on the vast and faceless bureaucracies that most Americans think they despise. Isolation packaged as participation, dependence packaged as freedom


  • Andrea Hardy
    October 8, 2014, 11:49 am

    cahow i think they mean simple in terms of possessions, finances and expenses as well as getting back to nature…:)

  • Andrea Hardy
    October 8, 2014, 11:51 am

    beautiful little house and really big accomplishment–bravo! i see the wisdom in living this way

  • Andrea Hardy
    October 8, 2014, 11:54 am

    oh, and anyone else catch nightline last night? it had a segment on tiny houses! brilliant!

  • d
    October 8, 2014, 6:15 pm

    Their story is very impressive and inspirational.. I love towards the end when she comments, how it still amazes her how much she looks forward to coming home at the end of a day.. Because after all she does live in a box..

  • Rebeca
    October 8, 2014, 9:05 pm

    I love it. I dream about living in a tiny home.

  • Bruce
    December 22, 2014, 9:20 pm

    Curious as to where they parked their TH to make their life so simple… mom and dad’s place? Is that where they get the water? I could go on 🙂

  • Andy
    December 24, 2014, 11:57 pm

    I have the same question as Bruce. It’s an incredibly important part of the equation, yet it’s a question that is rarely addressed in these articles and videos.

    • Heather
      April 28, 2015, 1:15 pm

      Hi Andy,
      I can’t answer your question for them but as for myself and my husband living in our Tiny House on wheels(in 130 sq ft), we are parked on property next my husband’s uncle. It’s in a neighborhood but less condensed/populated than most(we are actually mostly surrounded by forest). We are hooked up to his water and electric. Instead of owing any rent to him we just help with mowing the grass and trimming his trees. Water doesn’t cost anything since it’s well water but we will pay him for electric if it ever goes above his normal bill amount. Since being next to him, we have only spent $40 for electric in the past 8 months. We don’t intend to stay here on his property forever but it’s working out for now until we get our own off grid system going and find land of our own.

  • Andrea Moss
    April 27, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Cute house just not feeling the ladder. I really don’t want to have to step on the counter where food is prepared.

    • Julie J.
      April 28, 2015, 1:40 pm

      Have to agree with you on the ladder. The idea of stepping on my food prep area, ummm…NO!

  • Karen R
    May 4, 2015, 5:34 pm

    Personally, I don’t want “simple,” I want convenient. To each his own!

  • Tom
    May 4, 2015, 5:36 pm

    My wife and I chose to “downsize” 20+ years ago. We sold her 4 bedroom, 2+ bath, 2400 sqft house and I sold my 600 sqft house. We move to the warm south into 240+- sqft. Pump water, no fridge, 2 burner stove, no oven and electricity from a solar panel and battery. We really enjoyed it. Showering from black bag of water works great.
    After about a month we really didn’t miss the fridge. The biggest PITA was laundry. We lived this way for 6 years and slowly came to the realization that we wanted a little more. We now live in a “normal” house of about 900 sqft which is really larger than we need but it just worked out that way.
    Trying out small living is not a life commitment. Try it. You will learn valuable lessons.
    If every young person lived in a TH for a year our society would be very different.

  • Mike
    November 4, 2015, 9:25 pm

    I love the comment “that was just clutter”. It basically summarizes the whole of our consumer lifestyle.

  • November 5, 2015, 11:28 am

    Hi Jess & Dan,

    You did a great job designing and building your tiny home!! I love all of your woodwork and the history behind it. For such a small space you have it well organized. Personally for me I would want indoor plumbing it would be to much for me to carry in water and take it out. I loved viewing your tape it was really nice. It seems like you have a wonderful life together. Enjoy your adventure together!! Carol Perry

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