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My Robin’s Nest: Q&A with Tiny House Retiree


“One of the best things in life is to find out that you are perfectly happy without the things you thought you needed the most!”

Susan says that’s her favorite saying, and it couldn’t be more relevant to tiny house living! As a retiree (“who isn’t getting any younger”), Susan chose to go tiny even though she still owns her 800 square foot home (which she lived in for 50 years!) outright. Owning that land allows her to classify her tiny as an RV, and keeps her from paying a mortgage or lot rent. She uses a room in the “big” house for her sewing and her treadmill, and for guests when family comes to town. Otherwise, she enjoys the minimalism of her 180 square foot abode with her adorable dog, Moxie.

She was kind enough to reach out to us and answer some questions about her tiny life — be sure to read the Q&A after touring her lovely home!

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After 40 Years of Crafting & Raising Boys, She Went Tiny!

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Images via Susan

Here’s Susan and her fur baby, Moxie.

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The view from her kitchen to the front door.

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Images via Susan

Moxie enjoying the cozy lounge chair.

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Images via Susan

Her writing desk, decorated with lovely sunflowers.

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Images via Susan

A perfect window over the sink.

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Images via Susan

Her industrial dry goods shelving is amazing.

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Images via Susan

As are the multi-colored butcher block countertops.

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Images via Susan

Her stovetop cover adds more counter-space when she’s not cooking.

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Images via Susan

Love the frosted glass in the bathroom!

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Images via Susan

Great bathroom storage over the toilet.

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Images via Susan

All these little details make a house a home!

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Images via Susan

The ladder to her cozy loft bedroom.

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Images via Susan

And here’s her cozy bedroom.

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Images via Susan

What do you think of her lovely home?

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Images via Susan

Interview with Susan: Retired Tiny Life


What are your names?

Susan Harter and Moxie Molly.

How many people (and animals) are living in your tiny house?

Just me and my fur child and companion Moxie

Where do you live?

I live in Florida where they are not very tolerant of tiny houses but there’s hope! I am currently parked on my own property behind my bigger house.

How long have you lived there?

I’ve been blessed to live in “My Robin’s Nest” for a year and a half now.

What do you do for work?

After my husband passed in 2013, I retired from 40 years of doing craft shows and a full time job of raising 3 boys. I guess you never really retire from that though.

Do you travel full time?

I travel several times a year but I do it in my RV. I’ve been out west to Utah and up north to Maine and places in between. To travel with my tiny I would need a big truck and a lot of courage and I have neither. I have a dream of moving by a pond or lake someday but who knows what the future holds and I’m not getting any younger my family keeps telling me!

Why did I decide to go tiny?

After almost 50 years of living in the same house, I felt like I needed a change so I stepped out and went for my dream.

What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

I’d like to start focusing on things that are more important like relationships, camping, sewing for girls in Africa, and my faith. I’ve started on a journey towards a more simple, more minimalistic style of life even though the pictures of my tiny don’t look minimalistic. Believe me, compared to my bigger house, it is!

How did you first learn about tiny house life?

Back in 2013 my son (who was very against my getting a tiny house) introduced me to a BBC show called “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces”. I saw an episode that featured tiny houses which I had never even heard of before and I fell in love! This was even before all the cable shows came on which of course I watched every one repeatedly. In 2017, my family booked an house on AB&B near Gainesville Florida and on the property was a real tiny house! It was exactly what I wanted and I got to stay in it. It was for sale and I tried to buy it but finances didn’t work out. In 2019, I claimed it was the year of the tiny house! I started doing research calling several builders in several states. Then one day my son (the same one that didn’t want me to get one) told me there was one on Facebook Market Place. It was only 10 minutes away from my house and had free delivery! It was perfect at 20’ long and 180 sq.ft. and had all the features I wanted. I’ve still never seen one I liked better!

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost?

It was originally $65,000. It was a one of a kind and traveled to many tiny house shows. It was then reduced to $45,000 which was more in my price range.

What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

My bills and utilities are the same except electric might be $10 more a month. This is because I am hooked up to my house.

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house?

I put off buying a tiny house for a few years because of thinking I couldn’t put it on my property. Then I found out that it’s considered an RV so I went for it. So far so good! It’s convenient to be able to use a room or two in the big house for sewing and my treadmill. It’s nice to still have a place for family to stay when visiting.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

I was not focused. I was always looking for the next thing to buy to decorate. You tend to want to fill the space you have. I was bored!

Is there anything from your old life you miss?

Not at all! But then again my old house is 12’ away from my tiny. I could easily manage without it though. My house is paid for and if I moved, I’d have to pay lot rent even if I could find a place to rent. It’s been easier for me than some to make the transition because my “big” house is only 800 sq.ft. I just pretend I’m on a lake with a mountain view.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

It keeps me out of stores and I’m living much more intentionally. One in and one out is definitely the rule! Since I’m a “bit” older, I’ve done a “Swedish Death Cleaning” (look it up). My family is happy about that and it’s so much more peaceful living with and being responsible for less.

What about some challenges?

I haven’t had too many. Mostly people treating you like you’re crazy! For one thing, you can’t get insurance in Florida because all of the storms. I had a little trouble keeping mini- split AC fan clean. Also, bugs in Florida are a real problem. If you see one in a big house, it’s “oh well”, but if you see one in a tiny house, it feels like a small dog!

What makes your tiny home special?

Like many others, I have down-sized my many collections ( I am-was a big collector) bringing in only things that are very special and bring back good memories. You can see and enjoy your things more if you’re not over cluttered and I was! I am now surrounded by only things I love!

What is your favorite part of your tiny home?

I think my favorite part of my “Robin’s Nest” is my loft at nap time in the afternoon. Moxie and I go up to read and rest. It’s like a cozy nest and I’m old enough that I’m allowed to take a nap!

What helpful advice would you give to others interested In going tiny?

The first thing is to find out where you can park. It’s no good having the most wonderful tiny house in the world if you can’t park it anywhere. Do research on what you want and then decide what you really need. The more storage space you plan for, the more you will try to cram into it. Then down-size before you try to move because you will have to do it again and again!

Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know?

There are all ages of people trying tiny house living and I am so glad I didn’t let my age stop me! I have given my viewpoint of tiny house living from an older perspective. Everyone’s experience will be different. Enjoy the journey!

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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

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Avatar PMHTX
    September 5, 2020, 11:19 am

    What a beautiful little home. Very simply and lovingly curated. This epitomises tiny home living to me.

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 7, 2020, 8:05 pm

      Thank you so much for commenting on my tiny house. It is so exciting knowing that others are getting to see it! It is definitely my home! Susan & Moxie

  • Avatar Alison
    September 5, 2020, 7:46 pm

    Very nice. She did a great job organizing the storage loft—pleasing to look at, and I bet it holds a lot.

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 7, 2020, 8:10 pm

      I have tried to downsize so I don’t have a ton of stuff in my storage. I have a few “winter” clothes (remember that I live in south Florida). I keep my few electronics and my pared down supply of yarn up there. It’s the only crating hobby I brought into my tiny. Thanks for commenting on my Robin’s Nest! Susan

  • Avatar Sophia
    September 5, 2020, 10:07 pm

    So welcoming and beautiful. I LOVE it!

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 7, 2020, 8:12 pm

      Thank you for “visiting” my little home and for the compliment! Susan

  • Avatar Cindy
    September 6, 2020, 7:22 am

    I love her decorating style…and being an older woman myself…who has recently downsized, I admire her courage and outlook on life. Congratulations!!❤️

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 7, 2020, 8:41 am

      So glad you could find some inspiration and a fellow downsizer!

      • Avatar Susan Harter
        September 7, 2020, 8:14 pm

        Hi Cindy! Doesn’t it feel good to be responsible for less. Congratulations on your downsizing and thank you for your comments! Susan

  • Avatar Anion
    September 6, 2020, 2:30 pm

    What a delightful little home, and a delightful lady! I absolutely love the details in this one, especially the shelving and the wood stovetop cover–great idea!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 7, 2020, 8:36 am

      She really did an excellent job!

      • Avatar Susan Harter
        September 7, 2020, 8:21 pm

        Thank you so much for your kind comments. I have had a wonderful time making my tiny my own. I have a secret though, I am vegan and I don’t cook so that is why the cover is on the stove. I’ve never even turned the oven on yet! I do enjoy the extra counter space though. The shelves in the kitchen were there when I bought it but the other shelves I put up myself. It was fun putting up the 8’ one all by myself! Susan

  • Avatar Marsha Cowan
    September 6, 2020, 4:59 pm

    Absolutely lovely! Maybe one of the coziest, prettiest tiny houses out there. Just beautiful!

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 7, 2020, 8:35 am

      So glad you liked it.

      • Avatar Susan Harter
        September 7, 2020, 8:26 pm

        Wow Marsha! You really know how to make someone feel good! I’ve tried to get neighbors and friends to come over to see my tiny and they seem excited at first but they never show up! This has been a dream for me to be able to share my tiny with others. I really appreciate you comments about it being pretty! Thank you so much. You did my heart good! Susan

  • Avatar Maria Kentala
    September 7, 2020, 7:38 am

    Where do you live in Florida? I’m in Melbourne. Would like to know is your toilet an RV flush or compost? Do you rent out your Big house?

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 7, 2020, 8:33 pm

      I live in south Florida but don’t want to give my location away incase they come looking for me and say I can’t have a tiny on my property. You never know! My toilet is RV flush but I don’t use it. I have a little potty in my loft for night times and use the house during the day. It would be too much trouble to have to find a way to dump. It will be convenient if I end up moving someday but for now, this works for me. Like I said in my interview, I use it for when family comes down and for my sewing. If things get tight in the future, I might have to consider it though. Thank you for visiting my Robin’s Nest! Susan

  • Avatar Donna Rae
    September 7, 2020, 11:55 am

    The best thing I can say is that it feels like home! What a cozy beauty! I love all of her treasures…I love seeing people decorate with the things that they treasure collected over the years. It makes a home so personal. As much as I love this tiny house, I would make one change. I’d make it a bit longer and have a downstairs bedroom. I’m also older and though I could navigate the ladder now, my knees aren’t what they used to be so who knows how long I’d be able to navigate that ladder. Other than that, it’s just so lovely! I’m definitely looking up Swedish Death Cleaning. Very curious. I have way too much “stuff” and I don’t want to do to my son what I went through when my semi-hoarder parents passed. He likes that I am getting rid of stuff that he wouldn’t want and that I don’t use any more. A death in the family is difficult enough without the burden of sorting through everything and trying to get rid of it. Yep. Save the treasures and jettison the junk! Kudos to Susan for her efforts and inspiring others!

  • Avatar Susan Harter
    September 7, 2020, 8:47 pm

    Hi Donna! You sound like we could be friends! We have like minds. I am 74 and still alive and kicking but my family is concerned about my going up and down the ladder with Moxie every day. They just know I’m going to break a hip and end up in the hospital and rehab! I told them that if they want to help, they can find me a really comfortable sleeper chair that I could put in my “living room” instead of my chair. I know there will come a day. I would really miss my loft though. Did you look up Swedish Death Cleaning yet? It makes so much sense and nobody wanted any of my precious heirlooms passed down from my grandparents! Go figure! They are all really minimalists. It’s a good thing you’re doing to take the burden off family’s shoulders. I put a list on the refrigerator as to where a few important things are to to take the rest to Salvation Army! No guilt! I hope if you are interested in getting a tiny that you go for it. Other than getting married and having kids, it’s the neatest thing I’ve ever done. I am so thankful everyday! Thank you so much for your comments and your time and for visiting my tiny! Bless you! Susan

  • Avatar Ohhhdear
    September 10, 2020, 9:25 am

    Tiny homes are lovely for one person, unless your family spends much of the time outdoors. I am always amazed how families with several children manage in a tiny house…would love to see the “one year on” sequels! Also, I don’t think my knees or back could cope with a loft ladder on a daily basis, sadly.

    • Avatar James D.
      September 11, 2020, 4:59 am

      It’s not really surprising once you look at the history of housing and how people live around the world…

      Over the course of the nation’s history, there has been a slow but steady decrease in the size of the average U.S. household – from 5.79 people per household in 1790 to 2.58 in 2010. Multi-generational home arrangements also changed from 1850, with almost 70% of those ages 65 and older who lived with their adult children, to 2000, where fewer than 15% did so… Add, prior to the industrial revolution, people used to also house servants in their household and not just family members.

      Yet for most of history most people predominantly lived in smaller homes… The averages varied but in 1950 the average size home nationally was only 983 Sq Ft and it’s only over the last 60+ years that much larger homes have become the norm.

      Meaning, for most of history far more people used to live together in small homes than do now in larger homes… and only recently has that trend started to reverse…

      Expand to the rest of the world and there are many parts of the world that smaller homes are still the norm… The average size home in China, for example, is only 500 Sq Ft and in the UK it’s still below 1000 Sq Ft… While some countries not only maintain small house sizes but up to over double the number of people per household, like in Senegal their household average is 8.33 people…

      So it’s really just not something we’re all used to but there are millions of people around the world that would have no issues with it, because it fits what they consider normal, and actually wonder what we do with all the extra space… There’s more than just cultural differences with how people live around the world but we all base what we consider normal by what we’re used to…

      • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
        September 11, 2020, 12:53 pm

        Great commentary, James. It’s so true. We in America are really accustomed to far larger homes than anyone else in the world!

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 11, 2020, 7:48 am

      I pretty much agree with you about kids especially with one this small. My house that I’m parked behind is only 800 sq.ft. with one bathroom and people said they could never raise a family of 5 in something that small. Well, you do what you have to do and it never seemed that bad to me because we were used to it. I think if you start out when they’re small, that’s all they know and they are happy. I would start in a bigger one than mine though. I still have no trouble at 74 getting up and down ladder but I am in the market for a single sleeper chair to replace my regular chair for when the time comes. My report at a year and a half is that since my husband passed in 2013 I’ve never been happier and more content. Besides, this isn’t my home. I’m just a traveler passing through! Thanks for looking at my tiny Robin’s Nest! Susan

      • Avatar Susan Harter
        September 11, 2020, 7:53 am

        So sorry! That comment was meant for the person who commented before you! I do agree that most people do have it all wrong. Bigger is not better! It really doesn’t make you happier! I thoroughly believe in smaller footprints. Thank you for commenting and for looking at my Robin’s Nest! Susan

    • Avatar Susan Harter
      September 11, 2020, 8:09 am

      I pretty much agree with you about kids especially in one this small. My larger house that I’m parked behind is only 800 sq.ft. with one bathroom and people say they could have never raised a family of 3 boys in something that small. Well, you do what you have to do and it never seemed like a problem to me because we were used to it. I think if you start out In a tiny house when they’re small, that’s all they know and they are happy. I would start in a bigger one than mine though. I still have no trouble at 74 getting up and down the ladder, but I am in the market for a single sleeper chair to replace my regular chair for when the time comes. My report at a year and a half is that since my husband passed in 2013, I’ve never been happier or more content. Besides, this isn’t my real home. I’m just passing through! Thanks for looking at my tiny Robin’s Nest! Susan

  • Avatar Julie Bryan
    September 17, 2020, 7:51 pm

    I love this home. I wouldn’t change one thing. I to have a beach theme throughout my home. I just love it, so warm so inviting. You have a wonderful Soul. Thanks for sharing.

  • Avatar Susan Harter
    September 18, 2020, 8:25 am

    I live 5 miles from the beach so I can’t help having it in my blood! It’s like a breath of fresh air! My family thinks I have too much but I have curated every piece to make me feel like it’s my home! Thank you so much for your kind comments! Susan

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