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Professor Living Simply in 33 Sq. Ft. Dumpster Tiny House

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Right now I’d like to introduce you to Professor Dumpster (aka Dr. Jeff Wilson). He’s a college professor (and Dean) at the Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas who’s decided to move into a dumpster and live in it for one year.

I’ve shown you how a dumpster can be turned into a micro house before thanks to Greg Kloehn (artist) in this post way back in 2012.

In 2014, I showed you how Kloehn is building micro homes for the homeless out of unwanted and now recycled ‘garbage’.

In February 2014 I included a video introducing you to ‘Professor Dumpster’ (shown here) who started converting and living in a 34 sq. ft. dumpster on campus on this post.

So right now, I want to dig a little deeper to explore what Dr. Jeff Wilson (Professor Dumpster) is doing and why he’s doing it. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Professor Moves into 33 Sq. Ft. Dumpster Micro House


Images © Dumpster Project

His Old Home (2500+ sq. ft.) vs his New Home (33 sq. ft.)


Dumpster Dwelling Potential Future Plans

professor-dumpsters-dumpster-micro-house-project-0005 professor-dumpsters-dumpster-micro-house-project-0006 professor-dumpsters-dumpster-micro-house-project-0007

Images © Dumpster Project

Birthday Present for Jeff Wilson: New Roof and A/C


Image © Profdumpster/Instagram

Before the Roof


Image © Profdumpster/Instagram

Getting Out of the Dumpster (Day 1)

Getting Out of the Dumpster (4 Months Later)

Images © Dumpster Project

How to Roll Water into the Dumpster Cabin (Genius)

Image © Air Media/Dumpster Project

What the Dumpster Tiny House Looks Like Now

dumpster-tiny-house-project-professor-dumpster-001 dumpster-tiny-house-project-professor-dumpster-002 dumpster-tiny-house-project-professor-dumpster-003

Images © Dumpster Project

dumpster-project-t-shirts professor-dumpsters-tiny-house-project

Images © Dumpster Project

=> Help support the Dumpster Project and Professor Dumpster with your donation. Or buy a t-shirt and tote.

“Like” The Dumpster Project on Facebook

See more on this Dumpster Tiny House at The Atlantic (more photos and words from Jeff Wilson too)

Our big thanks to Joceile Moore and Staurt Jurrens for tipping us on this story!

If you enjoyed this story on how a professor is living tiny in a dumpster converted into a tiny house you’ll absolutely LOVE our free daily tiny house newsletter with more! Thanks!

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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!
{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Lindy
    September 16, 2014, 3:44 pm

    As someone who gets claustrophobic in my shoes, TOO SMALL but what a wonderful project! We all need to pay attention to this, and live as simply as possible…

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:11 am

      Agreed. Too small. But definitely an eye opener. And I’m sure he has other places to store his extra stuff ya know. Like the clothes, etc. He probably has an office too. But I still think it’s a cool, fun project, and seems he’s made campus life much more exciting.

  • Cahow
    September 16, 2014, 3:47 pm


    *Let the Tar & Feathers and Pitchfork-bearing commenters run me off this topic!!!*

    I watched all the videos. I went to their Facebook page.

    I get it. You’re R.A.D.I.C.A.L., with a capital “R”. You’re “crazy”, “wack-a-doodle”, “Breaking out of the cardboard box and into a metal one called a Dumpster ™.”

    I just don’t know what to say. What is this experiment trying to prove? That a human being can allegedly “live” in 33 sq.ft.? A prison cell has at least 88 square feet and that’s called “inhuman” by some people. I’m from Chicago, home of politicians doing these sort of stunts to “Be ONE with the Po’ Folks!” and it makes news for a while and then things return to normal. Whether it’s the former Mayor Byrne moving from her Gold Coast residence to Da’ Hood (Cabrini Green Housing Projects) to our current Governor Quinn who is going to live on a “…poor person’s minimum wages for a week”, I’ve never been sure WHAT lasting effects these stunts create.

    And, if “Professor Dumpster ™” aka Professor Jeff Wilson wasn’t trying so utterly, completely, epically HARD to be Tragically Hip, I’d give him at least passing credit for attempting something “Radical.”

    Let’s do a check list of Professor Hipster’s wardrobe:

    1) Indiana Jones Fedora Hat. Check!
    2) Buddy Holly Glasses. 20/20 Check-Check!!
    3) Bow Tie. Triple Check!
    4) Plaid Shirt. Check! and Hipster Approved Check!
    5) Wacky Golf Pants. Check! and Grandpa Approved Check!
    6) Wackier Wackadoodle Socks. Check to the 6th Degree of Check-dom!
    7) Earth Friendly Shoes. Final Check off of Classic Hipster Wardrobe, Check!

    Would anyone even recognize the attention-starved professor if he dressed…gasp!…normal? Or restricted his props to just a couple instead of the entire costume department?

    Except for the sheer experimentation aspect of this project where the students are all “You GO!, Prof Dumpster” and then bugger off to their OWN 2,500 square foot homes that their parents own, I see no value in this silliness. How much cooler would it have been for Professor Hipster to actually come up with a project that the poor and homeless would actually want to abide in until their fortune’s or luck turned around? I can’t imagine a single sole wanting to call this place “Home”.

    As it stands, only Professor Dumpster and Oscar The Grouch prefer to LIVE in a Dumpster! pffffffffttt….

    • Paul
      September 16, 2014, 6:19 pm

      …or more concisely, stupidity knows no bounds.

      I agree with you Cahow. What. Is. The. Point.? That you can do it? Ok, so you can. So, on the assumption that the professor is heterosexual, does he think he could entice a member of the opposite sex to come back to his abode… and actually spend some “real time” there? Methinks not.


      • Cahow
        September 16, 2014, 7:39 pm

        Paul! Mate, I’d tip a pint of Carrie’s Ginger Beer with you at the local pub if we didn’t live 8,188 miles apart! “Rant Warning OFF!” <bwahahahahahhaaa, why didn't I think of that?!?

        You and I think alike. Before I even began my rant, I was privately thinking, "This man has NO LIFE outside of his students!" He couldn't, just couldn't. Straight or gay, if you're in a relationship, NO Significant Other is going to come over for a boot knockin' in your Dumpster ™! (well, unless they're into total kink but that would probably involve a used Dumpster ™!) LOL

        This is what I'm expecting next from Mr. Hipster Dumpster ™: "Professor Living Simply in SIX SQUARE FEET!"

        And what we'll all be gifted to view is the Professor living on a park bench under a Blue Tarp, extolling the virtues of "living simply and mortgage free!" The 6 sq.ft. comes into play because it's the 1' x 6' dimensions of the Hipster's body. "See how easy it is to move from place to place," he'll crow! "I can pick up and move anytime I want!" (or when the Po'-Po' move his bum from the park bench!) Of course, he'll also have to have an add-on campaign about "Look how much food is tossed into this park bin! What a waste!", and we'll be treated to him noshing on someone's left over Panini and flat soda drink. (blech!)

        And since he's the Hippest of the Hipster Dumpster ™ Proff's, he should include several Selfies of himself, wrapped up in his keen Blue Tarp and dining upon his purloined bin 'treats'.

        I've been involved in Environmental and Global Movements since Paul Ehrlich, Ralph Nader, and Cesar Chavez and still do, to this day as do our adult children. No gimmicks, no weird outfits, just a People's Movements and Changes. This professor would have been laughed out of every march I ever went on, dressed in his get-up and gimmicks.

        Cheers, Mate!

    • carrie
      September 16, 2014, 7:25 pm

      DITTO….all I really need to say is; thank God I went to the Univ of Texas at Austin !!!! Back in ’66’ we called these people, STRANGE..
      The original artist who did this was adorable in his design with All the little extras including a sun deck on top!!!
      In the words of the great Cher……”snap out of it”

      • Cahow
        September 16, 2014, 10:35 pm

        carrie: You’re awesome!!! 😀

        Another Original, you are. And in the words of another Diva, Cordelia would have added to Cher, “Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet, whatever, but get over it. ‘Cause pretty soon you’re not even gonna have the loser friends you’ve got now.”

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:12 am

      Though you make some points, I think you guys are being too hard on him.

      • Cahow
        September 17, 2014, 10:18 am

        Hey, Alex. Usually, you and I are in complete accord on the homes that you list but this time, respectfully, I’ll have to “Agree that we’ll disagree.”

        As you know better than 99% of the people who enjoy your blog, getting the message out there about not only Tiny Homes but the philosophy behind them is an uphill battle. When the American Dream has been the Picket Fenced 3-bedroom home and ones ability to buy as many things as you can stuff inside of it, Tiny Homes and their Philosophy are flying in the face of a long standing tradition and dream.

        “Say What?!”, say the uninitiated. “You want me to pare down what I own into what I just NEED!?” Early examples of the Tiny Homes that you showcased had the bare minimum: a folding chair and folding table; a cup, bowl, and spoon; no water except for a container on the counter; crapping in a bucket, and the infamous LOFT BED, that so many older followers just can’t navigate.

        But, as your website developed, you also began showcasing Tiny and Small homes that were a Mid-Ground of Compromise: furniture that didn’t fold up; a full kitchen; flush toilets and a main floor bed. THESE examples excite a great many people as a viable alternative to a 1000-2500 sq.ft. home.

        When the uninitiated even begin to see or think “Tiny” can you even imagine if they ran across this Dumpster ™ example or worse yet, if a news service picked this article up and ran with it as a story about “living smaller”? I understand that this is an experiment but as others have asked, “An experiment for WHAT?” To push the boundaries on just WHERE humans can sleep? To find out that information, all you need do is travel to any large city with a homeless population and you’ll find ALL the examples that you need to see Where & How Humans Sleep.

        In my journey of obtaining 4 degrees, I’ve taken many fun, exciting and challenging courses in my Uni days. (1 B.S.; 1 B.A; 2 M.S. degrees). I had plenty of “quirky” professors but they were so, unintentionally. I was willing to give this Nutty Professor the benefit of the doubt until I watched the gif. of him tumbling out of the Dumpster ™ on Day #1. THAT’S when I lost it and felt strongly that he’s an attention-hungry individual. For Crissake, he’s a DEAN and Professor of Something related to design, and the Dude can’t figure out that he needs a ladder to exit the Dumpster ™ which is strategically placed askew on the concrete pad for maximum drop?!?!

        I fully expected that my opinion of how he’s trying to buck the established way of thinking of Home would be unpopular. But, I feel that for all his grandstanding and publicity over this silly project, had he taken a more useful approach to solving housing issues, he’d win over a far larger audience of converts to Tiny Living, not Tiny Dumpster ™ Living.

        I do appreciate your opinion in the matter, Alex. 😀

        • Jeff
          September 17, 2014, 11:11 pm

          I think that there is much that you don’t understand about human life. One billion people on this planet are squatters and would take something strong and solid like this dumpster in a heartbeat. One Italian proverb summarizes the fact that you can’t get out of your own head: A well-fed man does not believe in hunger.

    • GetTheJobDoneRight
      October 5, 2014, 10:28 am

      You’re new here, right?

  • Brian
    September 16, 2014, 4:11 pm

    What a fantastic project with some superb ideas. These would make wonderful TH for homeless people. It would give them somewhere to crash and somewhere safe, an address so that they can look for employment etc.
    Thankyou for sharing. Cheers from Australia.

    • Paul
      September 16, 2014, 6:22 pm

      …and somewhere they can cook. Not food… but themselves… after all, metal is an absolute wonder of a heat sink.

      This is stupidity.

      cheers from New Zealand… can’t find it on the map? Hey look, there’s a little island called Australia 1200 miles to the west.

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:03 am

      Thanks Brian. These would be pretty awesome for homeless people. Cheers!

  • Susan Stodola
    September 16, 2014, 4:58 pm

    I had to laugh at the air conditioner…..which I could see would be needed in a place like Austin, TX. Over all, I think the idea is genius!! and though pretty small, it would be a place a homeless person could call their own, stay out of the elements and be safe. Many don’t want any more responsibility than that so why give it to them? I’ve seen the shows where well meaning organizations have fixed up an apartment or home and gave it to a homeless person and within a short amount of time, it’s trashed, neglected…..because they don’t want the responsibility!!! Listen to what they want and then make them WORK FOR it. Then they will take care of it! Loved this post!!

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:03 am

      Well said Susan, thank you!

  • david r
    September 16, 2014, 10:13 pm

    I personally could never think of something like this – someone had to I guess. Has anyone every mistaken your home for an actual dumpster and left a deposit?
    Nice thing about relocating or redesigning the interior of the home – just wait for trash pickup day and a big smelly truck shows up with huge metal arms to rock your world.
    What’s your rent?

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:04 am


  • Cosy
    September 16, 2014, 10:20 pm

    I think the professor is showing an extreme example of what we can do with a very small space. Of course he’s quirky, how could he not be to do this. I had plenty of professors who were brilliant but had their own ‘style’. It’s kind of expected.
    What impressed me was the involvement of so many students & townspeople.

    This is an experiment for 1 year. He doesn’t plan to live there any longer than that as he has a perfectly beautiful home.

    College is a learning ground & he is teaching in an unconventional way. Who knows what ideas may come about as a result of this.

    At any rate. He seems to be enjoying it.

    And he probably has much more to think about than whether he’ll get laid in that. Geez

    • Cahow
      September 16, 2014, 10:45 pm

      Yes, he DOES have a perfectly beautiful home that can’t even qualify as one of Alex’s largest Tiny Homes. And I’m sure he’ll enjoy the hot running water, air conditioning, flush toilet and all the other environment destroying devices in it that some people rage against.

      Even the very twin ferns at his front door bespeak wastefulness; just imagine how much precious water they suck up when he could be growing some actual FOOD PLANTS on his front porch! And then donating the extra food to a homeless shelter! Tsk-Tsk. <that paragraph was said with snark, by the way. I like ferns. 😉

      Oh, and in a year's time, if he HASN'T thought about getting laid, then that's another topic for discussion! LOL

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:06 am

      I’m with ya Cosy. I’m not quirky or have that kind of style but I’m definitely not against it and it doesn’t even bother me one bit. Seems like he’s having fun, is happy, and is doing the same for those around him. So I say cheers to that.

  • Tom
    September 17, 2014, 6:54 am

    I’ve read a lot of the comments and I’m amazed at how many people actually like this idea. I love tiny houses and the ideas that spring from them but this idea seems more like an attention getting spoof. I just don’t get it. I’m also concerned about the stability of stacked dumpsters. I hope they are stable. Not judging just a little dumbfounded.

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 9:10 am

      I understand you’re thinking. I think he’s just having fun, getting others to have fun and think differently, and cure the boredom of everyday normal life. That’s what I think. But either way, I just like what he’s doing and wanted to share it. It’s extreme, yes. And probably not too great of a solution for most. But maybe it is to some?? Who knows.

  • Andrew Coyne
    September 17, 2014, 8:26 am

    Can you give me the name and source for the rolling water barrel that is visible in the video? I saw it once before (I don’t remember where) and I’ve told a friend about it. He runs a disaster relief organization and would love to buy a bunch of them. Thanks!

    • Alex
      September 17, 2014, 8:51 am

      Hi Andrew- good question. I believe it’s called the Hippo Water Roller. Here’s the link: http://www.hipporoller.org/ But there are others too. Like the WaterWheel: http://wellowater.org/the-waterwheel/ And the Q Drum: http://www.qdrum.co.za/

      • alice h
        September 17, 2014, 11:57 am

        Interesting water rolling containers but they all seem to be missing something durable to roll on besides the actual plastic container itself. Much more sensible to have a rubber tire like coating that can take the abuse. There is also a lot more resistance trying to roll a big lump of a thing than a well constructed cart with sturdy wheels. If you use 5 gallon water jugs in a cart they’re a lot more easily handled and can be cleaned and filled in more places. Do a search on folding dock carts. They also have the advantage of being useful for more than one purpose.

        I’ve gone from using 5 gallon jugs to the 2 1/2 gallon ones because they’re easier to lift and can be filled at a kitchen sink if need be. 2 or 3 can be stacked on a folding luggage rack but be wary of the kind where the wheels stick out way behind, they tend to get hung up on stairs and whatnot.

  • Mike
    September 18, 2014, 4:45 pm

    My first reaction was that a garbage can is not that creative of an idea. Like a few have mention, plenty of people have been doing it for a very long time. But aside from the goofy professor and animated videos I think this idea has some merit that isn’t being discussed enough.

    First steel is waterproof, or can be made to be so . It’s durable and can be made without using a framework . It can be secured pretty well and offer a relatively safe place for people.

    Steel has no off-gassing so there’s nothing there or under there to be concerned with, except the paint. It can be cleaned fairly easily and doesnt absorb odors. These units can be stacked or built side by side so that a family can more easily occupy one, or as apartments where scaffolding could be used to reach the upper levels. Stacking is not ideal for people, but is possible.

    Steel is a terrible insulator but it could be insulated on the exterior with styrofoam board or layers of cardboard, or on the interior with carpet foam or just plain blankets. Keeping it warm would probably easier than keeping it cool. Perhaps some interchangeable panels could be used on the exterior for sunlight absorption or reflection/insulation.

    The one thing I would definitely change is to make the entrance bigger for easier access.

    The attraction of the dumpster design is it’s simplicity. I’ve been studying tiny homes for over a year and find that building them takes a lot of effort, time, and money. Steel containers are straight-forward and a lot simpler to construct -saving labor. But if the two could be merged, there might be a way to mass produce something that is durable and completely recyclable.

  • Denise
    September 20, 2014, 12:00 am

    This guy is blissfully nuts. I just hope the local garbage truck doesn’t come by, pick up his new home and dump all it’s contents, including him into the back chute. Otherwise we will be reading about him in the paper or on the national news and it won’t be because he made a tiny house out of a dumpster. 🙂

    • Alex
      September 20, 2014, 10:40 am

      Blissfully nuts, lol, love that

  • Michael J. Beninate
    September 21, 2014, 5:32 pm

    Too many of you are missing the point about the dumpster house. It is a stunt. It is an experiment. It is designed to get attention and is being promoted to get attention.

    As an experiment it can fail. They want to find out if a person can live a happy life within this small dumpster space. What has been learned already is that the answer is no. Look at the additions and the planned expansion of it. That is an indication that thirty-three square feet isn’t enough for what they want to have in the small living quarters.

    Thirty-three square feet is plenty of space for just sleeping and having a closet. It isn’t big enough for a shower, toilet, kitchen, and the other things homes have. What this experiment will eventually do is develop an idea of how much square footage is actually needed for a single person to live comfortably.

    Anybody who has spent time on this site will see that the original Tumbleweed homes made living easy in as little as eighty-four square feet with a loft that added more square feet. The Tumbleweed XS was sixty-five square feet plus a loft. They don’t advertise that model anymore but they will sell the plans for it.

    The back of a full size old style American van is between ten feet and twelve feet long. The back of a minivan is eight feet long behind the front seats. They are about five feet wide. That equals forty square feet of floor space. The big difference is that standing in a van isn’t possible without a very high roof added.

    Living in a minivan would seem like a better choice than a dumpster size box even though it is possible to stand in the dumpster.

  • Chelsea
    November 27, 2017, 5:28 pm


    After watching above YouTube video – kudos to the professor for this gigantic micro idea. This tiny idea may actually have sparked something bigger that we thought was not possible at all. Let’s see (with open minds!)

  • Wilber Peebody
    November 27, 2017, 10:34 pm

    American creative understanding of futuristic ideas. As our population doubles over this coming year, I wonder if in 20 years this dumpster tiny house might just be a luxury apartment.

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