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Family of 5 Go From 2,000-sq.-ft. To 440-Sq.-Ft. Tiny House


Sure it’s interesting when a single person or couple goes tiny, but it’s downright revolutionary when a family of 5 decides to downsize from 2,000+ square feet into just 366 (440 with lofts & slide outs).

The Steinys (@steinysgotiny on Instagram) decided to switch to full-time tiny living for a number of reasons — some financial, some for the sake of minimalism, and some family-and-job related. It was also an awesome project for husband Jason and his dad to work on together.

The couple designed and built the tiny home mostly themselves, hiring contractors for the steel frame and roofing. They now park in a lovely rural spot they found on Craigslist, where their three kids have room to roam free. Inside they have three bedrooms (one for the boys, a loft bedroom for their daughter, and their Master loft).

Check out the photo tour below and stick around to read the Q&A with mom Katie at the end of the post! She talks about living tiny with kids, especially during quarantine!

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Steinys Family of 5 Go Tiny In 38-Ft. Gooseneck Tiny House on Wheels

Man, talk about a location!

Mountain views from their front yard.

Who says you can’t host Christmas dinner in a tiny house?

Kids watching a little TV in the Master Loft.

What an elegant space!

Their daughter has her own room for the first time. Can you tell she likes it?

Her own private space with a skylight.

The boys’ room features these Murphy bunk beds!

Display shelves and hooks are always a good thing.

They were able to keep plenty of toys!

And look at what the bunks are when folded up! A rock-climbing wall.

Yes, they have a composting toilet in the bathroom.

How cute is that shower curtain?

Laundry and office space.

Great color for the front door.

Love seeing “real life” with a bit of mess.

Brilliant slide-out pantry!

That ladder in the back goes to the Master bedroom!

Two bump-outs give plenty of space in the living area.

One Year, 5 People, 366 Square Feet: Q&A

What are your name(s)? Jason & Kate Steinbarger

How many people (and animals) are living in your tiny house? Five – ourselves and our three kids (ages 4, 6 & 8)

Where do you live? East Carmel Valley – Monterey County, California

How long have you lived tiny? Just over a year. We moved in July 2019.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time? Jason teaches middle school science & engineering. Kate works for the kids 😉

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny? This is a loaded question with so many answers…I’ll answer in bullet points but feel free to ask follow up questions if you’d like!

  • change in perspective – pursuing a “less is more” lifestyle
  • unique opportunity for Jason to work with his dad (both are engineer minded and enjoy designing/building – the tiny house was the ultimate project; his dad also had the space for us to build indoors, plus the majority of the tools needed to make it happen)
  • opportunity for our family to live with Jason’s parents/kids’ grandparents (in Prescott Arizona) while we built – we typically only see them 2-3 times a year for short visits
  • a way to minimize expenses…Jason was in middle of a career change and would soon be working as a middle school teacher – tiny living would provide us an affordable lifestyle while allowing Kate to stay home with the kids
  • minimal debt (compared to purchasing a traditional home)
  • we could still afford to adventure (camping, day trips/weekend excursions, traveling to visit family & friends)
  • some may say the stars aligned – or as we believe it, God provided – Jason had stepped out of youth ministry and was substitute teaching/preparing for the exams needed to enter a teaching credential program. His schedule allowed for him to take a short leave and start the build in Arizona. We built for about 3 months and then had to put the project on hold, returning to finish it the following year. In total the build took approximately 6 months (but felt like ten years)
  • seemed like a crazy and potentially risky endeavor, but we knew we might never have the opportunity to do this again

How did you first learn about tiny house life? A few years ago, we were visiting family over Christmas break and binge watched tiny house tv shows. We had never heard of tiny living before then. At that point it was the design element (for Jason) and the simple lifestyle (for Kate) that caught our interest.

How did you build your tiny house or buy it? We started with detailed sketches created by Jason and his dad. Due to our short time frame, we worked with a structural engineering firm that contracted the custom trailer and built the steel frame.

We did the rest of the building with the help of family and friends (mainly Jason’s parents and one of his dad’s buddies who spent several weeks working his tail off; we also had friends and relatives that traveled out for a few days here and there).

We had a company build the trailer and steel framing, based on our design. We also had a company install the majority of the roof. We built the rest of the house with the help of family and friends. Jason and his dad were the main contributors to our home.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? Approximately $70,000 (including appliances)

What are bills/utilities like compared to before? About half of what we were previously paying in rent and utilities.

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house? We had an ad posted in the “housing wanted” section of Craigslist and our landlords just happened upon our post. We rent a portion of their rural property that was already set up with water and power.

Before going tiny, what was life like? Before we decided to go tiny we were renting a 2000+ sq ft home in the middle of town. We spent the majority of our income on living expenses, which was frustrating because while we do enjoy being home together, we also LOVE to get out for adventures, near and far. We like to spend time outside, at the beach, parks, camping – you name it.

When at home, it seemed like we were often in the same room/space even though we had a large home. In that respect it was easy to think we could live in a much smaller space.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss? We live in a pretty rural location. This has been one of the biggest adjustments – both a blessing and a curse. It’s made for less face to face time with loved ones, but also made for more relaxed down time – less rushed and far more simple.

Living in town, we would often walk to stores and restaurants. We were also close to friends and family, making for easy get togethers and play dates. The property we live on now is 30 minutes to an hour from the majority of our friends. We’re also about an hour from our preferred grocery stores which makes meal planning a necessity – something we’ve never been very good at.

Jason misses having a garage and major tools. He has a mini garage under the gooseneck portion of our home, but its not quite the same. Kate misses having a full size bath tub.

Sometimes it would be nice to have more than one bathroom, but there are plenty of trees outside 😉

How are the kids adjusting to tiny life?

They LOVE it! We live in an incredible spot where they have tons of room to bike, roam and play outside. But some days (mainly when its super hot or super cold) they want to stay inside all day long. This totally works since they have more than enough space to play together or by themselves.

Annabelle has her own room (aka a very tiny loft with a skylight to see the stars) for the first time ever. She’s always shared a room with her brothers so that’s extra special for her.

They have plenty of toys, books, art supplies, etc to keep them busy for hours on end. When we designed the house we made sure to build in numerous spots for them to play and store their stuff. The boys’ bed is a murphy bunk that doubles as a rock wall when folded up. It’s pretty awesome. They can also fold it down into a couch or when its set up as a bed it makes for a perfect blanket fort structure.

Any particular challenges having kids in a tiny space?

Things can get messy real quick. (But that’s not necessary unique to a tiny space.) Fortunately the kids are good about knowing where things go and they’re usually quick to get on board with clean up. Emphasis on “usually.”

With Covid and Jason teaching from home, it can be a challenge to keep them quiet and out of his space. He has been teaching from the master loft. Not ideal, but it works.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

  • Financial – we would be financially strapped on our current income in most any other set up
  • Having less stuff and a smaller place means less time cleaning and more time “being.”
  • Also – everything we own has a home so even when the house gets super messy, we can whip it back into shape super fast.

What about some challenges? We chose a heavier gage steel (instead of wood) for the framing of the tiny house. This made it very difficult to attach anything (siding, windows, drywall, etc) as most holes had to be pre drilled. We would have saved a ton of time with wood framing.

Air flow throughout the house. Instead of the one picture window on the back side of the house, we should have installed windows that open for better cross ventilation. A dual zone air conditioning unit could have also helped. It gets HOT out here in the summer and no one wants to be upstairs in the heat of the day.

What makes your tiny home special? We are NOT professionals, but we built a house and we are living in it!

Because we designed it ourselves, we decided ahead of time what items we would want to have and built those things (or storage for those things) in. We got rid of a lot of stuff when paring down, but didn’t have to let go of anything meaningful or useful.

It’s open feel. We knew it would be small but wanted it to feel big. Hence the two side-by-side slide outs, pitched ceiling, open shelving and lots of windows.

Also, I love that we can all be in the house, doing our own things in our own space – even in 440 square feet. It can feel like we’re further from each other than we actually are.

What is your favorite part of your tiny home?

Kate – the picture window in our kitchen. I can see the kids riding their bikes in our yard as well as look out onto the hills of Carmel Valley from the kitchen sink. It makes doing the dishes not that bad.

Jason – the skylights above our beds. The amount of stars we can see out here is crazy!

Annabelle – the bookcase in my room and my bed

Ben – the couch and tv

Finn – the rock wall in my room

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny? If you’re wondering if you could do it – rent one! Before committing to the build, we booked an AirBNB for a few nights to see what it would actually feel like inside of one. That helped us to see what we’d want to do the same as or different from that specific home. It was super fun!

Also, decide what is useful and important to you and make sure to incorporate and account for those things when designing or choosing a tiny home. Aside from some large tools, we didn’t have to give up many items that were meaningful to us.

That being said, we transitioned from traditional living to tiny living over a 2-3 year period. We got rid of stuff in stages. For instance, when we started – the kids had a ton of games. We had them choose half to keep and the other half we gave away. They chose their favorites and then we moved on to something else. A while later we went back to the games and did the same thing – kept half and ditched half. We did this over and over (with everything – not just games) until we got to the amount of stuff we felt we could reasonably store. Needless to say, our kids are good at getting rid of stuff. We also try to do the “one item in, one item out” thing.

Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know? Many people ask how long we plan to stay in the tiny. We anticipate that our kids will literally grow out of this house in about five years or so. At that point we may go back to traditional living – or not, who knows. If we do look for a traditional house, we will likely look for a small home on a decent size lot. The simple life has been good for us…so far!

Highlights:

  • Master Loft {queen bed, clothes storage}
  • Girls Loft {twin bed, desk, clothes & toy storage}
  • Boys Room {murphy bunks, bay window seat, clothes & toy storage}
  • Kitchen {refrigerator, stove, oven, farmhouse sink, open shelving, pullout pantry and bar seating for four-five}
  • Living Room {slideout with couch, open shelving}
  • Office/Laundry Area {computer desk/workspace, storage, washer/dryer combo}
  • Bathroom {sink/vanity, bathtub with shower, composting toilet – oh yes!}

Learn More:

Related Stories:

Our big thanks to Katie for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife and mama of two little kids. She and her family just purchased a small fixer-upper and are starting a self-sufficient homestead on their happy little acre.
Natalie C. McKee

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Patty
    August 4, 2020, 4:23 pm

    I like that they decided to do this. I know how downsizing goes. I just moved from my home of 843 sf+ to 400 sf. Still deciding what to give away. I love that they could do 3 bedrooms. I like the slide-out pantry and the open living/dining. The view, of course, and the freedom to do and be. Blessings as you make the most of your space.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      August 5, 2020, 10:14 am

      Congrats on your downsizing, Patty!

    • Avatar Heather
      August 8, 2020, 11:49 am

      Love seeing so many people down sizing. Our family did this last year too and have been living in a 5th wheel 100% off the grid for a year and we love it more then we thought. Simple life is so freeing and now we can travel more. Super cute house and family, and a beautiful home!

      • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
        August 10, 2020, 1:42 pm

        That’s so amazing Heather! Have we featured you?

        • Avatar Heather Swift
          August 10, 2020, 3:38 pm

          Hi Natalie! No you guys haven’t 🙂

        • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
          August 12, 2020, 2:03 pm

          Could you send us some pictures to tinyhousetalk.com? We would love to feature you.

  • Avatar vee
    August 4, 2020, 7:06 pm

    I’m so impressed with this innovative approach to a tiny home with a family of five. The setting is gorgeous and lovely views of the outside — no staring at other people’s houses, etc. There are lots of good ideas here as well for storage, bedrooms, etc. Very child-friendly — very handsome dwelling. Even if they don’t stay there forever — they will have learned a valuable lesson — how it’s possible to live with and be happier with LESS!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      August 5, 2020, 10:09 am

      Exactly! The privacy of the lot is what I really loved!

  • Avatar Heather Swift
    August 14, 2020, 3:37 pm

    Is there a email address to send pictures too?

  • Avatar Marsha T Cowan
    August 31, 2020, 12:22 pm

    Amazing space and so beautiful! I love the “No boys” sign. Lol! You go girl!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      August 31, 2020, 3:36 pm

      It cracked me up!

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