≡ Menu

How to Build a Thoreau-like Tiny House for $1,000

Henry David Thoreau’s tiny cabin is something that everybody should learn about at some point, especially if you’re into tiny houses because as you probably know, Henry David Thoreau has always been an inspiring role model for those of us seeking to simplify our lives.

Here you’ll see what his tiny cabin was like in case you ever wondered. In addition, I’d also like to share some of my favorite quotes from Thoreau. Plus, how you can build a Thoreau-like tiny house for around $1,000 thanks to LaMar Alexander. The tiny house was 10′ by 15′ with 8′ high ceilings. Below you’ll get to see how simply Thoreau lived during his time at Walden Pond.

To explore more amazing tiny homes like this, join our Tiny House Newsletter. It’s free.:)

Henry David Thoreau’s Tiny Cabin in the Woods

Henry David Thoreau's Tiny Cabin in the Woods

Image © mgstanton/flickr

A bed, chair, desk, and fireplace. The basics…

Henry David Thoreau's Tiny Cabin in the Woods

Image © Gary Lerude/Flickr

Thoreau Cabin.

Henry David Thoreau's Tiny Cabin in the Woods

Image © Chris Devers/Flickr

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau Portrait

Image © Benjamin D. Maxham (1856)

Video: Henry David Thoreau’s Tiny Cabin and Simple Life at Walden

VIDEO: How to Build Your Own Thoreau-like Tiny House for $1,000

Learn more https://www.instructables.com/id/Thoreau-Off-Grid-Cabin-Design-Under-900/

Quotes on Simplicity by Henry David Thoreau

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion. [Walden]

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. [Thoreau to H.G.O. Blake, 27 March 1848]

What you call bareness and poverty is to me simplicity. God could not be unkind to me if he should try. I love the winter, with its imprisonment and its cold, for it compels the prisoner to try new fields and resources. I love to have the river closed up for a season and a pause put to my boating, to be obliged to get my boat in. I shall launch it again in the spring with so much more pleasure. This is an advantage in point of abstinence and moderation compared with the seaside boating, where the boat ever lies on the shore. I love best to have each thing in its season only, and enjoy doing without it at all other times. It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantage at all. I find it invariably true, the poorer I am, the richer I am. What you consider my disadvantage, I consider my advantage. While you are pleased to get knowledge and culture in many ways, I am delighted to think that I am getting rid of them. I have never got over my surprise that I should have been born into the most estimable place in all the world, and in the very nick of time, too. [Journal, 5 December 1856]

The savage lives simply through ignorance and idleness or laziness, but the philosopher lives simply through wisdom. [Journal, 1 September 1853]

The rule is to carry as little as possible. [Journal, 22 July 1857]

Henry David Thoreau Quote

Do You Have a Favorite Quote from Thoreau?

We’d love for you to share it in the comments below.


Related: Modern Thoreau-like Tiny Cabin in Italy

If you enjoyed Henry David Thoreau’s tiny cabin in the woods you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with even more! Thank you!

The following two tabs change content below.


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!
{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Otessa Regina Compton
    October 8, 2014, 1:56 pm

    We should all remember our humble past and remember that big things come from tiny beginnings. Thank you Alex for the history, children and old people alike could still use these lessons.

  • Susan
    October 8, 2014, 3:18 pm

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

    • Alex
      October 8, 2014, 4:10 pm

      thanks Susan!

  • Erica Woo
    October 8, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I really enjoyed this piece. It is a constant work in progress for me to remember to live simply. Thanks Alex!

  • Beth DeRoos
    October 8, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Bear in mind he ate at friends home and basically used this temporary cabin as a home base. Unlike someone who lives in a small place year round for years and years, and grows/hunts their own food, preserves and cooks their own meals with NO help from friends, family or strangers.

    • di
      January 12, 2015, 12:36 am

      Cooking in one pot on the wood stove seems very manageable.

    • di
      January 12, 2015, 10:32 am

      I believe the first image also shows a trap door in the floor near the entry. This door led to a shallow root cellar.

      • di
        January 14, 2015, 8:37 pm

        A cooler, without ice, inside a shallow root cellar may be sufficient for certain items.

    • Phyllis
      February 25, 2020, 5:36 pm

      His Mother often brought him cooked meals and did his laundry and he was also taken care of my the Emersons.

    • Jay Seaborg
      April 17, 2020, 8:55 am

      Very true-he went into Concord two to three times per week. And calling Walden Pond “wilderness” isn’t accurate either. It was a natural area in the sense it was undeveloped, but under no circumstances could it be called wilderness. Later on, Thoreau traveled to Maine (to an actual wilderness) and it absolutely freaked him out. I also have to say I have never heard his name pronounced the way the guide in the video did-I always pronounced it and heard it pronounced as “Thur-row” and he pronounced it as “Thourough”. My favorite Thoreau quote was when he got arrested for not paying taxes he thought supported the war with Mexico and Emerson visited him in jail and asked, “Thoreau, what are you doing in there?” to which Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?” suggesting Emerson should be doing the same thing.

    • Kt
      October 27, 2021, 9:13 am

      One of my favorites
      “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
      ~Henry David Thoreau

  • Saint Phlip
    October 8, 2014, 5:04 pm

    Yeah. He had quite a support network, of people “of his class”, who essentially took good care of him. Poor people, such as indentured servants living in similar circumstances would not have lived a tenth as well. There is a big difference between living in a tent in your back yard, and living in one somewhere in Alaska.

    That said, there is certainly something to be said for reducing the crap we burden ourselves with. I have, due to interesting circumstances, lost most of my possessions more than once, and discovered how little I truly need to be comfortable, and how easy it is to acquire more.

  • Martha L
    October 8, 2014, 9:46 pm

    Delighted to read this posting tonight…, resting at Beth Ireland’s airb&b offering in Boston area (turns out she has done plenty of tiny house/van living with her project Turning Around America) and planning tomorrow to go again to Walden pond and Thoreau’s cabin…:) finding so much to be inspired about. Sorry to have been away from home and missed Jay Shaeffer’s Bay Area workshop recently – but will be returning to California soon with more ideas including outfitting my backyard yurt for simpler living. Thanks as always for your newsletter, Alex.

    • Alex
      October 9, 2014, 7:54 am

      Thanks Martha I’m happy you enjoyed it!

  • Kathy D
    November 10, 2014, 6:18 pm

    Alex I love your site. I am a high volume Real Esate Sales person and Broker/ Owner, former owner of Mortgage Center in Florida. I would love to sell these houses..

  • di
    January 12, 2015, 12:32 am

    This is the only place I really like, because of its completely open concept. Everything can fit under a bed, including a wardrobe, ktichenware and groceries. Most designs lack this type of simplicity. The hardest thing to do is to make things less complicated.

    • di
      January 12, 2015, 10:41 am

      A table, desk and chairs may not be needed. For example, two daybeds or a daybed and futon couch may be sufficient to sleep, dine, study and entertain. Prepare food with a cutting board in your lap. Dine with a plate in your lap. Rather than a desk, try a clipboard or handheld computer; you could work anywhere in the forest.

  • di
    January 12, 2015, 11:03 am

    I would add a door to the left of the fireplace. This would provide quicker transport of the wood to the wood box. Wood is very messy. Limiting the area of transport results in less clean-up.

    Naturally, a larger wood shed, that held at least five cords of wood, would be more appropriate for New England weather. A shed on the back side of the chimney may be handy. Very few resources may be needed for a wood shed. A shed roof with a tarp to cover the opening may be sufficient. Doors on a wood shed tend to get stuck in the snow.

  • Rhoda
    October 4, 2015, 2:50 pm

    Such an inspiration….but what happened to
    Thoreau’s cabin? I visited it several years ago.
    Wasn’t it deemed a national heritage site?

  • Marsha Cowan
    October 17, 2015, 8:15 pm

    I have great respect for Thoreau and appreciate the simple lifestyle to which he wanted to become accustomed, but at some point, some “sticks” had to be cut to build that cabin in which he lived and studied. To make use of trees for essential lumber uses is not evil. It is the unnecessary use of our resources that we want to stop: houses too large, businesses too wasteful, excessive consumption, excessive restrictions on the freedoms to house ourselves and our families in a reasonable way, etc. He talks about not wasting time on anything nonessential, and to spend our time on interesting and mind enriching things, but then who will cook, clean, change the baby diapers, chop and bring in the wood, fetch the water, tend to the chore of disposing of wastes, mend and repair those things that inevitably get broken or damaged, keep the roof from leaking, balance the ledger, tend the garden so there will be food, etc., etc., etc., …unfortunately, life consists mostly of drudgery that must get done; we work, then we play. How peaceful would his walk in the woods have been had he children to attend. It is easy to spout all this simplistic philosophy when it is only about you and your own needs, but in reality, we take care of many people in our lives, and simplicity has many forms and definitions, some of which would not fit into his book very neatly.

    • Salma
      October 17, 2015, 10:58 pm

      “…life consists mostly of drudgery that must get done…”
      That’s his point!

      “It is easy to spout all this simplistic philosophy when it is only about you and your own needs, but in reality, we take care of many people in our lives…”
      One chooses to do these things.

    • Alex
      October 18, 2015, 12:38 pm

      Great points, Marsha. I love it. Very true.

    • Varenikje
      October 30, 2015, 12:23 am

      Oh, Marsha, so is this to say that Thoreau had no children? Oh, my. Yes, that does make a difference! We are all, after all, grown up children.

    • Claude Pariseault
      August 11, 2019, 3:47 pm

      You got that right Marsha!

    • Sophia
      February 13, 2021, 10:34 pm

      Marsha I agree with you. He had a mother and others who brought him meals and helped him out and so he was free to do as he liked. He preaches, but it wasn’t exactly as he made it seem. As an artist and single mother, I would love to have the time to walk through the woods, philosophize and pontificate, but my time is taken by raising a child and other mundane but immediate concerns. The minutes I have to make art come few and far between. Everything has a “backstory”.

      • Marsha Cowan
        February 14, 2021, 10:12 am

        So true, Sophie. Here’s to more “moments” for you to enjoy your talent.

  • Catherine
    October 17, 2015, 10:18 pm

    I’m with you Marsha! Unfortunately it’s usually women who do the “drudgery” and the men who get to write philosophy!
    He did grow his own beans though!

  • Salma
    October 17, 2015, 10:51 pm


  • J Bailey
    October 19, 2015, 4:55 pm

    He owned a lot of chairs.

    • Marsha Cowan
      May 26, 2021, 10:18 pm

      Hahaha : )

    • Martin Doyle
      June 30, 2022, 4:46 pm

      “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”

      ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

  • Marty
    October 23, 2015, 7:35 pm

    “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” – Thoreau

    • Marsha Cowan
      May 26, 2021, 10:22 pm

      You know, I do appreciate that particular quote. At the end of the day, when my family is loved and taken care of, when my students are loved and well taught, and when my surroundings are clean and orderly so that chaos cannot rule, I have truly affected the quality of the day for myself and many other people.

  • Mike Hoppus
    February 7, 2018, 8:43 pm

    Thoreau’s cabin was not a place of escape or survivalism. It was his way to get closer to the essence of life, which I’m convinced included a certain amount of solitude, simplicity, and closeness to nature. I read Walden as a pilot on the Nimitz. When I finished the last page, I resigned from the Navy; not to escape, but rather to live life to its fullness. I needed to get closer to nature. I was married with children…I built a Thoreau cabin…best decision I ever made. I have Thoreau to thank for my getting back to the essence and true beauty of lif with nature.

  • LaMar
    January 8, 2019, 2:03 pm

    Great article Alex and Thoreau was my inspiration to build small and off grid.

    Here are my free Thoreau like cabin that can be built for around $1000.


    August 11, 2019, 3:13 pm

    Standard-issue Massachusetts peon dribbling high-school-level rubbish–delivers little, oblivious, untutored, empty, unread, unwittingly callous, and miles upon miles from the strength of a glorious crank who lived there because his neighbors couldn’t stand him.

    • Diane
      October 29, 2021, 10:10 pm

      A background in behavioral sciences tells me you are correct. He was a typical narcissist who was only interested in himself and his ease of life. He worried not about his Mother but instead used her to care for his meals and saw everyone from the view of what they could do for him so he had to do little for himself. No kids also points to a classic Narcissist as they do not like children and if they have them they often abandon them or ignore them all together. I wonder if anyone spoke at his funeral or if they were just grateful their assignments in caring for him had ended.

  • Ben
    August 11, 2019, 7:15 pm

    I think it’s pretty disingenuous to say you can “build a tiny house for $1000” Literally no one in this day and age could live 24/7/365 in a $1k tiny house. The knowledge, skills, abilities etc. to do so and survive are extinct at best. There are some of out there that could come kinda close, but even then. I however love the HDT writings and the purpose of living mindful and minimal. I designed and built my completely off grid tiny house with the constant vision of everything I need, nothing I don’t. My house takes care of me, not the other way around. I love the “mundane” chores of gardening, composting, harvesting rain/snow, cutting wood etc. All of my electrical, hot water and 95% of house heat comes from the sun. I use about $80 a year in propane in backup. We conserve, but are never without. We live far more comfortable and have all the amenities required to be spoiled and not wanting. Part of the equation is that I am VERY lucky to have the abilities to do all of this my self. So that allowed me to complete this adventure and have it all paid for. This means I have no debt, no utility bills and very little overall maintenance. Needless to say it was a bit more than a $1000 to do this, but now I can live a bit of the HDT ethos of not requiring much money, not gathering and having useless possessions, living with the biosphere,not against it. That makes me, in my opinion, the richest and luckiest man around…

  • Bruce
    January 10, 2020, 10:10 am

    I enjoy being on your email list. I also enjoy most of your articles … I do have one point to make … each article has a catchy, “enticing” title, which actually aids me in selecting which ones to read first. However, when I click on the links, the very first thing I am hit with, other than the article’s title, is a huge (in context to the size of my phone layout) image, as part of an ad! I appreciate that there needs to be ads on your site, some of which can be interesting in and of themselves, but, I find it visually misleading. I read the title link for this Thoreau cabin article, clicking on it, because it peaked my interest, only to be met by an image of an interior of a house, that definitely was not a simple cabin! This visually jarring “out of context” image is easily remedied. Simply put one good image of the article’s subject, right below the article’s title, then follow up with the needed ad … it’s a win-win for your Readers and your Advertisers. Keep up the great work! ❤️😬🙏🏼

  • Kathy
    February 23, 2020, 12:59 pm

    Favorite quote: “I’d rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

  • e.a.f.
    February 25, 2020, 7:17 pm

    Truly an amazing cabin and at one time this is what many lived in. I remember cabins such as this, where people used the fire place to cook in a pot. Outhouses were used and a large tub in front of the fire place was used for bathing. It was a simpler time. This man did it by choice, but many lived in similar circumstances and their lives were fine. I’ve lived in a place where there wasn’t running water and it was fine, in the summer. Well, just pump the water up. Just not keen on it in winter.

  • John
    February 26, 2020, 8:06 am

    It is a small shed on stacked blocks.

  • David Pritchard
    February 13, 2021, 6:00 pm

    Back in the sixties, it was a requisite pilgrimage to go skinnydipping in Walden Pond.
    Deep and cool year round , with a pleasant gravelly bottom.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      February 16, 2021, 9:05 am

      Haha oh my! My husband grew up nearby…

  • Don
    February 13, 2021, 9:05 pm

    Good WOW! Simplicity defined ;~)

  • Scott
    February 14, 2021, 3:14 pm

    I will paraphrase my favorite quote of all time. ” More than money, more than love, more than fame….. give me truth”.

  • Mary
    June 9, 2021, 6:47 pm

    Is the point to invalidate Thoreau? Or is it to listen to what he said, to think and consider. Who he actually was does not dismiss his wisdom. Maybe it’s dreaming to think this kind of simplicity is attainable, but we don’t have to live in a Thoreau cabin to appreciate his view of life.

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 1, 2022, 8:55 am

    We might want to update the $1000 part since that was a 2014 price. Lol! Especially after the price hikes of this year. I’m just saying. .

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.