This is the story of a single father who wanted to simplify his life after divorce by living in a tiny house with zero debt so that he wouldn’t have to stress about money and be able to spend more quality time with his daughter.
So he converted a shed into his very own debt-free tiny home and has been living in it for over three years. He was even featured on HGTV! You can enjoy a video tour of his tiny home plus enjoy an interview with him below thanks to the folks at Our Journey to Bliss.
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Single Dad Turns a Shed into his Debt-free Family Tiny Home
Images © Our Journey to Bliss via YouTube
The kitchen is nicely organized with open-shelving.
A miniature refrigerator to keep the groceries fresh.
Wall storage is a life-saver in tiny spaces.
The more you can hang, the better!
It’s a 12′ x 20′ shed with a bathroom and kitchen.
The living area doubles as a walk-in closet, and even triples as bicycle storage.
It all started with a $4,000 shed.
And he built from there. An additional $6,500 was spent (not including elbow grease) to make it home.
Images © Our Journey to Bliss via YouTube
Video Tour and Interview… He Turned a $4,000 Shed Into A Tiny Home
- 12 x 20
- Approx 360 sq. ft. including loft space
- Started with a $4,000 shed
- Materials to build/convert approximately $6,500
- Something similar to this can be replicated for $10,000-$12,000 if you do it yourself
- His motivation was to spend more quality time with daughter, travel together, and be able to pay cash for their home
- The tiny house features a kitchen, bathroom, living area, and two lofts
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Good job! You can buy a prebuilt shed or build one even cheaper. Make great off grid cabins.
the pre cut sheds are a great way to start especially if you’re not world’s handiest person or want to get the build done faster. I’ve seen a number of sheds turned into tiny homes and its a great way to go. Get the shed up and have a roof over your head while you finish. Makes sense, spend less money, have more time.
Shipping containers are also an excellent way to accomplish an inexpensive tiny house and quickly expandable
My congratulations to Jim for a well thought-out home. Living mortgage free would be a great deal. It’s nice to see someone changing their lifestyle to be better. I hope Jim & his daughter have some memory making times together. Blessings!
I loved the interview and tour. And I am delighted by this man’s joy and enthusiasm. His tiny house has virtually no “style,” but it is just right for him. It is very encouraging–people who have only basic carpentry skills and not much cash can create a really liveable space. You could always fancy it up later, if you’re into that.
Looks great Dad! Wonderful job teaching your daughter that material things are not what life is about.
I would love a basic home to get started. Something like this would be ideal.
Nice layout, But the place needs WINDOWS ! Badly.. that’s all
I disagree. I for one hate windows because they are just a just a waste of wall space and limits your living space arrangements, the door has a window in it and it’s only 360, you don’t need much natural light, Besides is kids are probally young, don’t need alot of windows so the pervs in this world so can see them
Sure beats living in a tent.
Exactly the kind of thing people want to see. You can tell from the comments it’s a little rough for some, some would want more windows, as for me, I’d need a Murphy bed or convertible sofa rather than a sleeping loft. But it’s doable. You have a sense of where to start. You have the basics, and you can put in your own details!
Nothing like being debt free, the best thing I have ever done for myself.
That’s so awesome JC! Congratulations!
Great tiny house, especially for the cost! And, allowing you to spend more time with your daughter. I’d also miss the lack of washer and dryer…or a washer and dry clothes on a line. The big problem nationwide is that the states and counties have not caught up with the Tiny House Movement. I suspect with a huge increase in homeless over the next few years, that the subject of housing is going to change big time. Government needs to change to the realities of today’s living.
Totally agree, David.
In 1950 the average size home was 750 sq.ft. A 1500 sf home was huge. Families were larger back then, yet they all managed. The McMansions started showing up in the 70s/80s. So today you live your whole life on average buying 3 homes, the starter, the family and the dream home. On average refinancing every 7-10 years, paying off the majority of interest in the first half of a 30 year loan, so that you pay more interest then principle on all these loans.
I’m now 60 and have asked my son, his wife and child to take over the house because I’m sick of stuff and would like to put a tiny house on our 2 acres. Then I could spend my retirement playing with my grandson and traveling with my wife.
Lantz, What gov’t zoning hasn’t realized is 25+% of retirees want what you want. But few have acreage available. I would say 80% of single retirees would be happy with a tiny home on a small lot. But zoning regulations force singles to remain isolated in small apartments or homes they no longer want/can physically or financially maintain. Groups of 4 – 6 tiny homes on a typical urban lot would create appealing places to live while having reasonable walking or biking distances to town services and stores.
Unlike New Zealand… now its tiny houses everywhere, alongside McMansions.
Slums of the future and at exorbitant prices, like NZ$ 1 million and up. Thanks to Covid and expats returning home in a god almighty hurry.
Typical bloke space; a bike hanging up with his shirts which to my mind is both practical and space-saving! I love it, and would do the same with my bike if I could get away with it.
Definitely creative haha
I have been contemplating this journey myself. I have taken many screenshots of different types of sheds. I love the idea!
Me too! Very clever.
Hi, Great video. My question is always where can you locate these things?
Zoning? Size limitations?
Hi Peter — that’s a great question, but quite complicated. You would have to ask our local town offices what is permitted where you live. The more rural you are, the better chances this would be allowed.
Many of the counties are now allowing “granny or mother-in-law” cottages as second dwellings on properties. Great for retired family members and when they pass away you have yourself a rental or airBnB.
Yes our town just approved that, in fact!
Yes, finding an elderly person who lives alone and offering to rent a spot in the corner of their yard is one way to go. It gives them somone nearby for emergencies and makes them feel safer in their home (Often, your local church will know someone who is looking for a person to live on their property). Then, if you ever decide to move out, they have a tiny house they can rent out to someone else or a caretaker. If you put your tiny house on wheels, though, you can move your home with you if you ever need to move out, and since one mobile home is usually allowed in one yard in most cities, a tiny house on wheels may be easier to accomodate than a regular shed as it is mobile. Another plus to tiny houses on wheels is that you can live in an RV court where you will meet people, some who are there monthly like you, and some who are travelers sightseeing the area. I have met so many people from other countries with wonderful stories while living in an RV court. It also will have ammenities like bathrooms with showers, laundry, and even little stores with basics, so your tiny home can be really basic as you don’t have to accomodate a bathroom, and you can have a nice portable deck for living outdoors more. So you have a couple of options for where to put your tiny house.
One more thing. . .if you can get by without plumbing in the walls or wiring in the walls, you will not have to worry about codes or inspections. Running an RV drinking hose through the wall to the sink is a simple way to get pottable water without plumbing, and add a sprayer head for control of the water. Using a composting toilet would negate the need for black water plumbing, and in most places gray water can be run off into a mulch pit. NOCO port plugs, the kind used on boats, are a way to have electricity without having wires in the walls. Port plugs (14 gauge) run straight through the wall, attaching on the outside, and having a 11″ cord on the inside to which you can plug a 3 or 4 plug adapter and run several things at once like a fan, stovetop, tiny refrigerator. On the outside, you hook up a 14 gauge extension cord from the main house, or from an electrical RV type hookup. However, AC units would need their own plug and extension cord as they pull a lot of power. I am just saying that there are simple ways to get water and electricity without breaking any codes or laws which we would never want to do. Any these things can be temporary fixes while you wait for clearance to pursue regular electrical and plumbing ammenities.
I would live in this. Love it. As long as a place is comfortable that is good enough for me. This is done beautifully.
We did exactly this for my dad two years ago. We took over his house, refinanced in all of our names (and took $45k out of it), and used most of the money to buy and finish a cabin shell for him to live in the backyard–the cabin is attached to our house via the porch, and a breezeway which we plan to enclose (the rest of the money went to updating the main house, especially the kitchen, doing most of the work ourselves).
Zoning laws here mean he can’t have a full kitchen–check your area’s zoning laws!!–but as he didn’t want one, that works out fine; he has a microwave and an electric frying pan, which he uses for most of his meals (and gets plenty of leftovers from us). We spent $6k on the 10×20 cabin shell which the shed company built onsite for us, and another $13k or so finishing the interior. Again we did most of the work ourselves but hired an electrician to do all the wiring etc. and a plumber to do all the, you know, plumbing. He has a grinder/upflush toilet (which saved us almost $4k by eliminating the need to dig a new pipe trench to tie into the sewer) and a full shower. We framed the walls for the bathroom and hung all the drywall, put in the flooring, painted, hung a bar for his clothes and used plywood to build storage above the bathroom. I tiled the bathroom floor and waterproofed behind the shower (which is a fiberglass unit with glass doors). A “Mr. Cool DIY” mini-split AC/heater unit keeps him comfortable year-round for very little cost (and we were able to install it ourselves easily–it’s a great unit. Even the men who came to do our big traditional HVAC in the main house were impressed with it), and I bought a super-efficient bathroom exhaust fan with a heater to make sure his bathroom is extra toasty in winter, too.
Daddy didn’t want a loft bedroom, so his bed is in the main area, and I am currently working on designing and building a storage bed for him. I wanted him to go to 12 x 20 or even 14 x 20 for the cabin shell; he resisted but now admits he wishes he’d listened. So go as big as you can! We’re considering building a small addition for him, actually.
It’s worked out really, really well. Dad contributes a couple of hundred a month for rent & utilities, but the rest of his retirement income is all his. We, especially I, love having him right here with us, and he loves it, too. He has his privacy and we have ours, but we’re all together, too. He gets to spend time with his granddaughters, and they get to spend time with him. We walk the dogs together every day. Back in the spring he was working in the garage and overheated himself, and passed out; thank goodness my husband and I found him only a couple of minutes later! I am grateful every day not only to have this time with my dad but to know that I’m here if he needs anything or has any problems; he’s still a very strong, healthy man, but he did just turn 76.
I can’t recommend this enough, I really can’t. Were we to do it over, we would do some things differently; I would have built a cabin from CMUs for him rather than the wood shell, and attached it to the house differently, and again we would have gone bigger. But like I said, I am constantly grateful to be here with him and have him here with us, and he *loves* his little cabin. He has two big TVs on the wall so he can watch two football games at once, lol.
The cabin shell and skilled tradesman were our biggest expenses, and the companies we went with weren’t the cheapest (but they were excellent). We probably could have done it all for about half the cost if we’d made different choices/decisions, but overall it was worth it. (I’m now trying to get my brother and his wife to do the same for our mom (in another state) or get them out here to do the same in ours.)
I hope that helps! Really, don’t hesitate. Talk to your kid(s) now, and get the ball rolling. We are so happy we did. Best of luck to you!
Kiwi here, so what is a grinder/upflush toilet, and also what are CMUs ?
Grinder/Upflush Toilet = Maserator Toilet
CMU = Concrete Masonry Unit a.k.a. Concrete Blocks
Peter, definitely go to the town hall in your town/city and talk to the building inspector or zoning official. The laws in our city say only one dwelling is allowed on a lot, and a dwelling is defined by having a bathroom, kitchen, and sleeping area. Dad didn’t want or need a full kitchen (just a microwave and hot plate) so it it didn’t really matter, especially because by semi-attaching his cabin to our house it became part of our dwelling–the law says if it’s all under one roof, it’s one dwelling, so we tied in the roof of his cabin to the roof of our back porch (and will cover the breezeway between them soon, it’s just one of those things that keeps getting moved to the bottom of the to-do list). One dwelling, no worries! But it’s something to be aware of. (I think every city has a process for applying for zoning exceptions, though, too, which is something to look at if you/your family member really needs or wants a full kitchen.)
I’m currently planning to build a workshop/office/guest cottage in another area of the backyard, though, and am keeping the restrictions in mind (so no kitchen there, either).
Our city inspector was very helpful, and so was reading the city’s laws myself on their website.
In our city you need a permit for anything 200 sq ft or above, and they require engineer-stamped drawings (one reason we went with the pre-made shell, as the company–Ulrich Barns–could easily provide those). Every city varies, though.
There is a law–I believe it’s a Federal law–that allows the building of “granny units” for elderly family members, but that law requires the unit be removed or destroyed after the death of said family member. We didn’t want to do that, so we chose not to apply under that law. As others have said, though, lots of cities are now changing the rules to allow for families to take in elderly members without the need to destroy their homes after they’re gone.
It’s a bit of a pain to figure it all out and learn all the rules and such, but it is SO worth it! We/I love having my dad here with us, and we/I love that he has his privacy and we have ours. I am grateful every day for it.
Best of luck to you!
Thanks Anion! This is so helpful.
You’re so welcome, Natalie! I’m so glad to have been of service. Please feel free to ask, if you have any questions. I’ve turned on notifications for this thread, so you can ask them any time (not just right now, I mean).
Thanks, Anion! Lots of great ideas and information.
I feel that your Tiny House is so neat, it has most all
that I would need except for w/d. Yes, you did say that
yourself Jim. I think your freedom to have more for you and your daughter was a courageous move, but so good regarding your profession also. Thanks for the personal
tour Jim from a Tiny House friend. 🙂
Jim- Saw your you tube interview. You did an excellent job on your tiny Home and explaining everything as well! One of the best interviews i’ve ever seen! I have been researching Tiny Homes for about 4 years now. Anxious to build and have a more relaxed and simpler life. The dilemma is being paralyzed and stuck in a power wheelchair, finding the right space design to accommodate! I would have loved to have caught a glimpse of your daughter and heard a little from her. Best wishes on your Tiny Life and glad you found freedom from so many things. You must have wonderful friends that let you live on their property! Tracee’ in Arizona
Video well worth the watch. Really got me thinking and more motivated. I am currently doing a tiny shed build, and this video, in particular, helped me.
Love the idea behind the tiny house, the priorities, and the execution. It was really nice seeing something affordable and practical for a change, instead of just cute and expensive.
I think I would prefer more windows, but like he said that something they realized later.
Question though, wouldn’t it get hot up in the sleeping lofts?
Hot air rises and I have a hard time seeing that air conditioner installed in the wall downstairs doing a great job of cooling the lofts thru the ladder access. When it’s cool enough, you could use the windows upstairs for cross ventilation, but I’m wondering about the summers.
Yes, lofts will generally be warmer… Can compensate with properly placed fans to get air circulation or you can even duct the AC to the loft and add a fan at the end to boost airflow or add a window AC to the loft just for the summer but when doing it for low cost there is often compromises for budget and this was only meant to meet their needs for now but isn’t how they will keep it long term…
What a great story and a great dad! But let’s not forget that amazing daughter who was willing to give all this a try and who seems very suppportive of her dad. It’s a great example to us all of how little we need to be happy, healthy, and living well. God bless you both!
I wondered if that’s what the duct going up from the A/C was for.
For me this perfectly epitomizes what a tiny home means. The only thing he needs is a Ninja Foodi. That thing does EVERYTHING! Aperfect example of not having the kitchen taking up a third of the space available.
……what nobody is going to say GREAT job @ being a DAD, wanting to spend more time with his kid and be free from financial stresses of owning another home with a hefty mortgage.
I too am a single parent however my son is now grown. I’ve been considering a tiny home for the same reason you did. I WANT TO TRAVEL! Living in CA housing costs are ridiculous and even tiny house living has restrictions as a far where you can put them. Your comment about ‘just do it and you’ll never go back’ resonates with me. I already live very simply in a 2 bedroom house where I only use 1 of. So I think the transition for me would be pretty easy. Thanks for talking articulately and candidly about tiny house living. You’ve inspired me and may have even pushed me to doing it!
It’s not just the price of the shed, it’s the piece of land too. If you work in the city, where would you find a small parcel of property that is “safe” from crime, and would even allow a tiny house/shed to be part of the neighborhood? Lots in safer and nicer areas can be very pricey.
I’ve considered this but I would add a 8×12 room for a bedroom and let the daughter have the loft, It wouldn’t cost but a couple more hundred bucks and it’s important for kids to have their own space.
Well, additional cost will depend on location and the specific local rules and regulations. In CA, for example, there are many places that just adding just a bedroom can cost over $60K…
Some places let you get away with more than others before they hit you with the additional fees, permit requirements, engineering reports, foundation types, infrastructure requirements, included impact fees, etc. Also, the reasons for the additional fees can also effect whether or not you can live full time in the structure.
Significant modifications can also involve more costly additions for the roofing and weather proofing that can turn a few hundred modification to a few thousand, depending on how much you actually have to change…
So that should all be researched and accounted for before committing as options like this aren’t always so straight forward and simple, everywhere, but properly planned out it should be easier to max what you can do and work around any obstacle(s)…
I absolutely agree, You need to research EVERYTHING but I’m building my out of city limits so there are less restrictions and codes.
Those open cupboards badly need to be covered with doors. They’re so ugly! But otherwise, yes, I really, really like what he was saying!
For the amount of money spent and the speed of getting it livable, this tiny home from a shed is great! A few comments talked about refining the design later and it seems that would be very doable. Windows seemed to be a big issue for some and I agree. Having a view can make a tiny place seem much bigger and they can be of a size and location that doesn’t interfere with furniture or storage placement. And windows of a certain kind are usually required…and if not, a good idea anyway…for egress in case of a fire or other emergency. Windows aren’t a luxury but a need. Most people don’t like the feeling of living in a closed in box. Some don’t mind, of course, but one should be a little practical about them. I wish the kitchen storage were enclosed cabinets instead of open shelving. Perhaps that’s one of those design changes to make as time goes by but doors hide a lot of clutter, making a tiny house more calm. The bottom line, though, is this is someone’s home that they find comfortable for themselves. And how can that be a bad thing, right? The conversations here are meant to explore other ideas, not disparage anyone for their choices. Kudos for a good build! As far as where to put smaller residences, California now is allowing people to build small and tiny homes in their back yards to help ease the housing crisis. You can have a relative live in it or you can rent it out to anyone. It’s meant to create more affordable housing.