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THT 001 Building and Living in a Tiny House with Ryan Mitchell (Interview)

Just a few days ago I received an email from my friend Ryan who blogs about tiny houses at The Tiny Life. He basically announced that after 3 and a half years of writing and talking about tiny homes that he is finally going to build one for himself to live in as his home. A mortgage-free home. So I decided to arrange a phone call to interview him that way you can get a glimpse into his thoughts and reasons for making this change and how he’s making it all work.

I’ve transcribed the interview for you to read below but I’ve also uploaded it to YouTube so you can listen to it there. In the near future, it will be available on iTunes as a podcast so that you can listen to it from your iPhone, iPad, iPod, PC, or Mac. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Oh, and if you’re curious, he’s building and designing a slightly modified version of Tumbleweed’s Fencl design which looks like this:

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Fencl Tiny House for Sale from Tumbleweed Houses

Photo Credit Tumbleweed Houses

I can’t wait to learn more about the house. But for now, enjoy the interview then if you want to leave your thoughts at the bottom of this page in the comments so we can all talk about it.

Listen to the entire interview or read the transcript below:

Interview Transcript:

Alex: I’m Alex Pino with TinyHouseTalk.com and I have on the line Ryan Mitchell of TheTinyLife.com and I just want everyone to welcome him and first of all we’re going to go kind of back in time Ryan and then I’ll go in and I wanted to ask you some questions about the announcement that you’re building your tiny house to live in.

Ryan: Okay.

Alex: So tell us what initially drew you to the idea of tiny houses.

Ryan: Okay. So near the end of 2008 I found myself in a lay off situation I was a corporate recruiter and the economy was just beginning to take a hit at that point and I was laid off and had some time to re-evaluate several things in my life. I was realizing that even though I had my  master’s degree, a good job, I was a hard worker.. You know, a job can come and go in the blink of an eye and you know that made me kind of re-examine my financials and things like that.

This quickly led me to realize that housing was a huge portion of my spending and needs. And so I started looking at what are the alternatives and that’s when I discovered tiny houses. Luckily I was able to get a job very quickly after that but I was inspired when I saw Jay’s house in Philadelphia way back then and I started a blog and now we’ve been running for 3 and a half years over at TheTinyLife.com and it’s been great.

Alex: That’s awesome. Your story is similar to mine actually. I mean I didn’t lose a job or anything but I was really unhappy with jobs in general. I had tried so many jobs and I didn’t like them and I couldn’t find.. I wanted to do something that I liked and I noticed the same thing that you said that housing was such a huge portion of what I would pay for so when I was looking for alternatives I found tiny houses and I was like whoa. And yeah because I’m an online guy I started a blog on it too.

Ryan: Yeah and I think a lot of people arrive at tiny houses because of the money issue but then when you start to dip your foot into this arena you quickly start to learn how things are tied to different environmental issues so I quickly shifted from just a financial aspect to also an environmental one. And like you said I wasn’t really liking the jobs that I had but I was doing them because they paid good money so the shift allowed me not only to kind of secure my future but also open up possibilities for jobs that I knew I would enjoy more that maybe didn’t make as much but when you adjust for housing accordingly for tiny houses it makes it a financially viable option.

Alex: Yeah and that’s cool that you bring that up because it’s funny how when you realize that because you and me we’re not in tiny houses yet but I feel like I’m benefiting from the same principles just because I’m not in an oversized house anymore- I mean kind of- it’s 400-square-feet or so. I could go smaller but it’s still helped me overcome financial struggles. So I think it’s neat that a lot of us and listeners out there who feel like “man I can’t do that yet, it’s too much, or I don’t have the money, or maybe it’s too extreme right now for me” I think it’s still neat that you can take a lot of the ideas and you can put them into action right away and slowly get there.

Ryan: Yeah exactly. When I talk to a lot of people they’re like, “150-square-feet, that’s crazy!” And I agree. To much of their surprise. Tiny houses are an extreme but we learn really valuable lessons, techniques, and approaches and get to throw around great ideas that we can apply to, like your case, a 400-square-foot space and just start to question some of the things that we thought were kind of expected and we can benefit tomorrow by making very simple adjustments in how we approach things even without jumping into a tiny house.

Alex: Definitely. So, I like this article that you wrote recently on The Tiny Life that was about the major obstacles we’re facing for tiny houses to become more mainstream and I wanted to compliment on you for that because you were right on.

Ryan: Thank you!

Alex: Tell us about how you’re finally getting to start making your dream of a tiny house a reality.

Ryan: I had kind of sat down with my budget just a couple months ago and looked at it and realized, “I think in terms of the financial goals in terms of getting rid of students loans and paying off my car and things like that I was going to have to put off my tiny house for about a year or so.” And I had kind of come to grips with that. But then I found myself in a situation where an organization reached out to me because they knew about the passion that I had for my professional job and they offered me a position that was able to kind of give me some more income and that made the numbers more favorable in terms of financially being able to afford the house. At the same time I found a place to actually build and live in the house and that just fell into my lap. So everything just kind of fell together in about two weeks. It was kind of like a whirlwind. Then I found myself sitting in my house like saying to myself, “Well what’s stopping me?”

And then I realized very quickly.. I did a blog post about this.. kind of the barriers to living in tiny houses and one of them is you just have to at some point make the decision and go for it. You have to take that leap of faith and it can be a little bit of a scary thing because a lot of these houses are $20,000 to $30,000 and that’s not a small chunk of change to many of us. And then it’s a big lifestyle change as well. So I was like okay it’s time to take that leap of faith and do this and here I am.

Alex: You said. Everyone I talked to that has done it has said sort of the same thing in a little bit of a different way but it really comes down to making the choice.. The strong decision to just do it. And as you said that I started to look back and realize that I had an opportunity to do it at one point. And something must have blinded me to it because I didn’t realize that I had that chance when I was sitting there. And it just kind of flew past me and looking back I’m like, “man I had a chance to do it too I just, fear, or something stopped me and I didn’t do it.”

Ryan: Yeah it is a bit of a scary decision to make because it’s a big shift and there’s money involved in it and with any new thing there’s some risk involved. It’s a change in life and making the decision I think is scarier than some people would expect but then I’ve come to .. Now that I’ve made the decision I’m so involved and excited about how I’m going to build this, the details of it, ordering the things, getting all of it, talking to people and friends to get their help and stuff that quickly makes that kind of scary decision just go away so you can focus on this exciting opportunity that you have.

Alex: Ryan how did your close friends and family react to you doing this now? Because they know obviously that you’ve been into it for a while.

Ryan: Right. So I think I was talking about it and wouldn’t shut up about it. And year one blogging, year two blogging, year three blogging about The Tiny Life and then they started to realize that oh he’s actually for real about this and when I first tell people about it they’re like, “oh a tiny house like 500 square feet, 800 square feet?”

And I’m like no 130-square-feet. They kind of give me a crazy look. And they always say well my bathroom’s bigger than that, my closet is bigger than that but I think for the most part my friends and family it’s been a gradual process and I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time now so it’s very calculated and pre-meditated to pull the trigger on this and they’ve all been very supportive of it.

Alex: That’s awesome. What about around 3 years ago when you first kind of introduced the idea to them was it different then?

Ryan: Yeah I think so. I definitely got a lot of skepticism. But I think one thing that helps a lot is when you can show a person a picture of a tiny house.. Like you say a tiny house on a trailer that throws people when you say trailer. It conjures things of like trailer parks and mobile homes that have negative connotations right or wrong. But when I show them pictures of some of these houses people have been able to do them so successfully with such great aesthetics and designs that people are just drawn to them because the aesthetics of the tiny houses really just resonate with something in them and I think that people realize that good design is something that is lacking in most of our homes in America and in other places too. But they instantly relate that this is a quality house and that it’s visually appealing and I think that that breaks the ice.

Alex: Definitely. So have you got your trailer yet?

Ryan: I ordered my trailer yesterday.

Alex: Nice, congratulations!

Ryan: Yeah. Thank you. So I was going to go with one company but then I found a North Carolina company that manufactures a better trailer for $600 less so I had to go with them so it’s been ordered and it will be here in three weeks and after I get off this phone call I’m actually going to order my windows and those are two of the major components that take some time to get the rest of the stuff I can pretty much get within like a week or so.

Alex: Nice! Have you already decided on your appliances?

Ryan: Yeah, for the most part, it’s going to be pretty standard I’m going to be building a Tumbleweed Fencl house and I’m going to be sticking with most of the stuff they recommend. I’m going to do a slightly different refrigerator. I wanted to do just a whole fridge instead of having a freezer compartment because in college I always had bad experiences with it. It never quite froze frozen pizza in that little compartment so I was like well if it doesn’t really work that well let’s get rid of it. So I did that and then I’m also going to be using an on-demand tankless water heater which is different from the Fencl which uses a standard RV water heater.

Alex: Cool. Well just to wrap things up tell the listeners where they can find more about you and where they can follow along as you finish this project.

Ryan: Absolutely. So my blog is TheTinyLife.com and I’ll be blogging there about the house. I do other posts as well but if you’re just looking for specific just my house there’s a whole section now dedicated to my tiny house project called Ryan’s tiny house and that’s at TheTinyLife.com.

Alex: Awesome Ryan thank you so much for taking a few minutes to chat with us here and I look forward to doing it again soon when you get started.

Ryan: I appreciate it. Absolutely. Thank you.

To learn more about Ryan head on over to his blog at The Tiny Life.

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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!
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • meg & Joe
    October 26, 2012, 10:26 am

    Way to go Ryan. I’ve known about you building a tiny house for some time, nice to see it is underway. I just leaned a frighting fact today btw, 25 million adults live with their parents. Food for thought for all those people who inevitably will make fun of what you’re doing.

    • October 27, 2012, 3:32 pm

      Thanks Meg and Joe! Hope you two are doing awesome.

  • Carolyn B
    October 27, 2012, 5:04 pm

    Great interview, Alex and Ryan. Also, Alex, dynamite job on the transcript. I started the video then read the transcript while listening to the video. Reading words helps me retain that info.

    • October 30, 2012, 7:25 pm

      Thanks Carolyn I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  • TigerBrooke
    February 17, 2013, 1:53 pm

    I love this, thank you so much for putting it up on the net. I’m in the same position, we are just trying to get finances together to get started. Best of luck! <3

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