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How This Couple Built Their Simple Life in a Tiny Home

When Alaska experienced an economic downturn there were lots of lost jobs and homes. In 2010 the opportunity came for this couple to buy a plot of land outside of Fairbanks. So they did.

Since they had a small land payment they decided to start building their own tiny home of about 264 sq. ft. (12×16) little by little without a mortgage. In fact, one of the first things they did was pitch a tent and start the building process.

After two years they decided to expand the cottage to about 520 sq. ft. Today it boasts a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living area. It took them about two years to build and around $20,000 in costs. All of the hard work is paying off for the couple since today they live mortgage-free and rent-free. And they can be proud of what they built.

Couple’s DIY Simple Life in a Tiny Home in Alaska


Images © VickisGarden

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Images © VickisGarden

Right now they’re working on their second project which is a log home. And they’re building it the same way. All cash. Pretty soon they will be renting out their original cottage for extra income. This way they can pay off the mortgage on their land faster.

Please enjoy the cottage tour below, visit and “Like” this couple’s Facebook Page, and re-share below. 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!
{ 33 comments… add one }
  • Cahow
    February 11, 2015, 11:17 am

    My Grandparent’s were deeply affected by the Depression so when I came into their lives, they taught me “Depression Era Thinking”- “Make Do or Do Without. Repair Before You Replace. If You Can’t Afford “It” At First, Then Save-Save-Save and You’ll Owe Nobody.”

    All of my life my true friends have laughed at me about this philosophy and I love them dearly so I shrug it off. THEY were raised by parents where you borrowed to the MAX and indulged in every whim. THAT is why >they< owe five and six digit amounts to their bank and credit cards.

    Both my husband, who is Scottish, and I, have paid for EVERYTHING in cash: our cars, our schooling, even our homes. We owe NOBODY, nothing. It takes time and it's not a popular concept among most people but it works for us. 😀

    Bravo to this Young Couple! You're doing it the RIGHT WAY and look how far you've come. <3

    • Ann
      February 11, 2015, 2:30 pm

      I totally agree. I am an immigrant and my parents taught us the exact same Depression-era principles. Never borrow when you can save and pay for it in full. Only use your credit card for emergencies (like something suddenly broke and you need to fix it right away). And my own philosophy that I added to the list: Want vs. Need. Know what the difference is and you’ll spend your money wisely, plus you’ll enjoy what you do buy SO much more!

    • charles
      February 11, 2015, 2:49 pm

      So if I drop a nickle down a gopher hole, we’d have a second grand canyon? I’m not Scottish nor in debt.

      • Cahow
        February 11, 2015, 5:37 pm


      • Becky
        May 9, 2015, 4:11 pm

        I don’t get it . . .

      • ThatOneGuy
        July 13, 2015, 2:40 am

        He’s attempting to be a smartass. Unfortunately he landed firmly on the ass side of the equation with no smarts to be seen.

      • Cahow
        July 13, 2015, 11:51 am

        Dear ThatOneGuy: BEST snappy response…EVER!!!! Please allow me to use your response in my every day life…it is positively brilliant! 😀

    • OurLittleHouse
      February 11, 2015, 11:54 pm

      Glad you liked our story. We are actually sort of in our 2nd life…lol…
      after making lots of mistakes early on. Somewhere along the way though, I began to take to heart the old stories from my Swedish great-grandmother and my husband’s Athabascan grandfather. They lived a much simpler, hard-working life but their old-school values made them strong
      and they owed no man anything.

      • Dr Hall
        May 13, 2015, 11:24 pm

        You’ve done a great job building your home & not borrowing. The flower boxes add a nice touch. I hope you show us your log home when it’s ready!

        Alex, I really appreciate you for all you do. A home means so much & I love to collect ideas for mine!

        • Alex
          May 14, 2015, 8:48 am

          Thanks Dr Hall!

    • February 12, 2015, 12:55 pm

      That’s pretty much how my dad was, born in 1926.

      My husband and I have a mortgage, but that’s our only debt.

      • Cahow
        February 12, 2015, 1:52 pm

        It’s nice to hear from so many people who listened to their Elder’s. Few do, nowadays.

        As a child, I remember that Lay-Away was HUGE! Then, everyone became stupid and began charging everything and carrying the high cost of interest. It wasn’t until the Great Recession that many stores began a Lay-Away Policy again. Immediate Gratification comes at a HIGH COST!

    • Peter Piper
      May 27, 2016, 8:59 am

      I like your “it works for us” phrase. It comes from people who KNOW it would work for others as well but are too polite to say so. I’m not so couth. I tell it like it is. People who don’t like it are the ones who are in debt up to their necks and are jealous of those who aren’t.

  • Ralph Sly
    February 11, 2015, 2:40 pm

    And your not depressing.

  • Karen R
    February 11, 2015, 2:54 pm

    They did well. Everyone needs to be comfortable with their own choices, we aren’t clones of one another.

  • valerie
    February 11, 2015, 3:21 pm

    Nice. Compact. Efficient 🙂

    I want to so badly but have to find a way to do it Granny style…gonna have to be creative 🙂

    thanks for sharing!

  • jane
    February 11, 2015, 3:28 pm

    What a charming little house. Love the patchwork quilt on the sofa and the pretty garden path to the outhouse!

  • Andrea Hardy
    February 11, 2015, 4:19 pm

    cute little house! everything fits perfectly!

  • Carol
    February 11, 2015, 5:24 pm

    Lovely home. Good for you! If I had it to do all over again, I think I would do things as you have.
    My Scottish grandma had a saying, “If you use what you have, you’ll never want.” Not always true, but it is amazing how often you can use what you have instead of going out and purchasing something new.

  • Linda
    February 11, 2015, 8:06 pm

    Nice. I like the roof because you could put solar panels on ANY of the slopes so no matter which side is south-facing, you would have a roof for solar panels.

    • OurLittleHouse
      February 11, 2015, 11:58 pm

      I never thought about it as we have an abundance of wood to burn for heat and electricity here is quite reasonable.
      But you are right…solar panels would be quite easy to install. One thing my husband does is insulate, insulate, insulate! Drives me nuts but keeps us warm!

  • roxie
    February 11, 2015, 11:23 pm

    love this little home. I am saving now and hope to be able to buy outright a smaller home in a few years. want a 2 bed,1bath home. my current home is to big now 4bed,3 bath. want to have no mortgage payment when I retire

    • OuLittleHouse
      February 12, 2015, 10:16 pm

      Exactly. One of the smartest ways we can plan for retirement is pay everything off!

  • mim
    February 12, 2015, 6:28 pm

    ann outhouse in alaska…..brrrrrr…….

    • OuLittleHouse
      February 12, 2015, 10:22 pm

      Well…in winter we used it to dump our
      honey bucket. We actually have a bathroom and kitchen with running water now. My original plan was to turn the outhouse into a garden shed/greenhouse when we were finished. But it’s nice when working outside…barbecues, etc. so we boarded one seat and are getting ready to put a clear roof on with large side window to grow tomatoes inside. It sure helped us get started!

  • Sandi B
    February 14, 2015, 11:31 pm

    I find this story very inspirational — here are people who bit the bullet, took the plunge and got done what they had to do and evidently had a great time doing it. I find the pay as you go a good way to live and if you can not afford it and do not want to save for it you really do not need it. There is nothing wrong with that philosophy. There is a lot to be said for being debt free and not owing anyone money. You do not have to worry about paying bills, you do not have to worry about loosing your home or car, you do not have to “duck” phone calls, someone trying to repossess your car or people at your door. 🙂

    I think their little home is well built, comfortable and it is paid for. I look forward to seeing the log cabin/house they are building. God bless you each and every day and thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Alex
      February 15, 2015, 9:47 am

      Thanks Sandi!

    • Cahow
      February 15, 2015, 10:22 am

      Ah, Sandi B, wise post! I’m not going to assume that you’ve “been there” in regards to the “losing one’s home and ducking phone calls” but what you wrote sure hit home for me. It’s almost impossible for me to grasp how the same grandparent’s that taught ME so much could have the daughter (my Mum) that was a wastrel and spend-thrift. During the few times that I lived with her, most of what I remember is her and her current husband’s being evicted, utilities being cut off, an unlisted phone so the creditors couldn’t reach them. And it wasn’t because they were poor; nope, it was because every nickel that came into the house went to FUN! FUN! FUN! like speed boats, motorcycles, “stuff and such”. Had she ever bothered to pay heed to what I learned from HER parents, she never would have been in those dire situations that she willingly put herself into.

      I always have to laugh when I’m in a store, almost EVERY store, from Target to Walmart to a Clothing Store and the cashier (forced, of course) MUST ask you, “Would you like to open up a XYZ Charge Card on today’s purchase and get 10% off?” I smile at them, thank them, acknowledge that they are FORCED to offer the credit card info as part of their job, and then explain, “No Thank You. See, when I pay CASH, I never receive a bill in the mail. When I pay CASH, I can never be “hacked”. When I pay CASH, I can’t spend more than I have on hand.” Almost always, the cashier is not only cool with what I say but will then inevitably agree with me and say “I do the same thing, pay cash.”

      When I see news reports about how we’ll become a “Cash-less Society” and that everything will be paid through a cell phone, I pray that I’ll be long gone from this Earth before that truly happens.

    • OurLittleHouse
      February 24, 2015, 4:55 pm

      Thank you Sandi. One thing I rarely mention when talking about our small house building journey is that my husband had a very substantial debt from the past that took half of his paycheck each month to pay. We probably couldn’t have gotten a loan if we tried! But I’m glad we didn’t because now he is within a year of paying that debt and our land off. We are now moving into our unfinished log home as we have rented this house out. It has been a lot of work and there is more ahead but with faith and perseverance we have come through difficult and challenging times. I posted a few pictures of our log house on my Facebook page. Not a tiny house but by starting tiny we have been able to build what we wanted as we could afford it.

  • Carlos
    May 9, 2015, 8:10 pm

    I am amaze at how people are able to build their homes on their own like that, I would not even know where to start. I admire those who can but in my case I will have to pay for labor.

  • Sheryl
    May 10, 2015, 1:32 pm

    Cahow, I really agree with your comments! I had a similar situation growing up. My grandmother saved everything and she had a paid off home. My mother spent and spent. When my mother got a small inheiritance, I begged her to buy a home in the coastal town where we live in California… she blew all the money and now that same home we looked at in 1990 for 200k is worth 2 MILLION on Zillow. I will never EVER own a home here in my home land, so I am paying very close attention to this tiny home movement. California, I’ll be leaving you soon… what happened here? So heartbreaking! It’s just not worth it, and now the drought. I’m looking at the South and also Montana and Idaho… but even Idaho is getting prohibitively expensive now.

  • Sheryl
    May 10, 2015, 1:39 pm

    This story is so inspiring! I applaud this resourceful couple! Living in a TENT in Alaska to do this? that takes guts and moxie! I want to do this someday, I have considerable building resources, but I just need a husband! 😉

  • Judy
    May 28, 2016, 1:18 am

    Great accomplishment! It’s wonderful to see a husband and wife on the same page and sharing like minds. They’ve built more than a tiny house, they’ve built a marriage and wonderful memories. I, too, look forward to seeing your log home when it’s ready. Kudos!!

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