Talk about the ideal tiny living arrangement: This couple and their toddler in Ontario purchased a DIY tiny house from its previous owners and live in it on 6 acres of beautiful land that they “steward” for the landowners who need help with the upkeep!
Because they paid for the tiny home by selling their condo they have no mortgage or utility bills while living in The Giving Tree Tiny House. The coolest part? Owner Bianca is working with local authorities to try and make “land stewarding” a legal way to create affordable housing for others, and her trailblazing could open doors for the rest of us down the line.
Now they have their little home, way fewer bills, and tons more time together as a family, working the land and connecting with nature. How awesome is that? We got to interview Bianca so make sure to read our Q&A with her at the end of the post!
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Family in Ontario’s Land Steward Tiny Arrangement!
Love the tiny house but personally I want their amazing greenhouse!
What a beautiful kitchen. The butcher block counter is lovely, and the plants are great.
I love the simplicity of their shelves and the minimalism of their dish selection.
Look at this storage area. They keep things simple, and it’s great.
Everything looks lovely in these minimalist cubbies.
Love that their son gets to grow up on the land.
This is one happy little family!
On their way to their parking spot!
Watch the videos below to see the awesome tour of everything!
Check out the video tours to see the rest of the home!
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Q&A with Bianca on the Benefits of Tiny Life
What are your name(s)? Bianca and Justin Metz, along with our Toddler Bodhi and Spaniel
How many people (and animals) are living in your tiny house? 2 adults, 1 child, 1 dog
Where do you live? We live in Dundas, Ontario outside of Hamilton
How long have you lived tiny? Just under 1 year! – 10 months to be exact
Tell us a bit about your mission/inspiration. Especially about your name “The Giving Tree.”
We hope to inspire and guide others on their own path to simple, sustainable living. Our world is at a very unique time where we find ourselves in a sink or swim situation and it is clear we need to think differently about our way of life. Especially in Western culture, we tend to measure success by a bigger house, better car, all the things, we live to work and work to live.
We are dissociated with nature, with home ownership (literally, how our house works), with each other, and with ourselves. Justin and I decided long ago that wouldn’t be the path for us and our children, and when we had Bodhi 6 weeks early this mentality shift was extremely profound. I worked very hard at a job I didn’t slow down for during pregnancy and should have, and I felt that I couldn’t say no because of this “working mom” ideal we crave, and truly
after this scare something huge shifted in me. I have always set boundaries and have been outspoken, with little filter, but this was something different. This has inspired me to show others you can take a risk, say no to consumption, say no to things we can’t afford, to simply slow down and say no, is one of the biggest inspirations behind The Giving Tree.
The Giving Tree is about something circular, something that always gives to itself, doesn’t take more than it needs, something that provides positivity and can self sustain, but needs energy to keep giving. (In zero relation to the book) The Giving Tree hopes to inspire others to live more sustainably to leave a future for our children’s lives, and to slow down to live in the present of yours.
What do you do for work? I (Bianca) am a Sustainable Living Specialist where I coach and guide others on how to live with less and live more sustainably. My consultancy revolves around downsizing, including purging, reorganizing, assessing systems and consumptive habits to help others clear their spatial and mental overwhelm as well as impulse buying in order to live slower and more purposefully. This could be assisting others with physical downsizing to live more sustainably, where individuals or families work with me to redesign a more sustainable way of life using principles of the simple living model, sustainable small space living, permaculture and much more. I have a small team of outsourced consultants to help my clients assess their finances and current needs to guide them to their dream life. Often this is looking for a homestead, or a tiny house, the alternative living movement is taking over and I am in a unique position as a tiny home dweller to see outside of the box, and see
what might not be there!
I also consult on tiny house bylaws, zoning, how-tos, and connect tiny house dreamers with manufacturers or consult on the considerations, benefits, and perils of DIY builds. Justin is an Adolescent Montessori teacher at a Land Based school in Dundas. He runs the Permaculture program and the Animal Husbandry programs. The students learn on and with the land. A Wilderness Backcountry Canoe Guide for most of his 20’s he now teaches his students about nature, biodiversity, geography, environmental sciences and more all through the land at the school. The programs revolve around farm gardening, bees, chickens, the forest and pond at the school!
Why did you decide to go tiny? Wow, so many reasons. The first that comes to mind is to be closer with nature, we wake up and fall asleep to the sounds of the frogs and birds. We are immersed in nature everyday. We truly believe that if you do not have a relationship with nature, you are less likely to want to save it, and we are both environmental advocates in our own way. Furthermore, we wanted to have a relationship with our home, living in a condo that was taken from us, we had no control or idea how our house worked, if we needed something it took weeks to figure it out. We hated it. We wanted to be true homeowners, not just on paper. Living tiny we know how our hydro works, we know what our limit is, we hooked up our own water and heater, we installed our own toilet (composting) we know our house inside and out. A huge inspiration was wanting our son to be raised in the wilderness, away from screens, we wanted a simple slow life, that wasn’t taken up working or cleaning our house.
Ultimately, we wanted a life together. One where being together was the most important part. Going tiny gave that to us.
What are you hoping to get out of living tiny? Truthfully, in addition to everything above, a deep desire for self reliance and self sufficiency. We have a massive farm style garden that we just put in (with next to zero know-how), but we are taking a permaculture course right now which has been instrumental to our knowledge. We honestly just want to be able to rely on ourselves for our needs rather than big corp. We hope to grow our own food, mend our own clothes, make our own products, and take that next leap in sustainable living that involves lifestyle more deeply. We tap the trees for syrup, use honey from the hives for products and food, we rarely buy anything new and our wardrobe is small and of good quality, our house has only what we need and nothing more. Right now we are working on growing food and medicinal plants in hopes to really understand where our food comes from, as well as keeping bees and chickens, we are pretty self reliant! Which has paid off in this pandemic IMMENSELY.
How did you first learn about tiny house life? Pretty much the same as everyone else, in that when Tiny House Nation came out on Netflix, we binged and fell in love with tiny homes. We went the next step though, a challenge with these shows is the assumption it is inexpensive and easy, and while it can be, there are still a lot of up-front costs to it that if most people had, would simply buy a home. So we had to wait, invest in a house we could sell and make a profit on to buy tiny.
How long did it take to finish your tiny house? We purchased a DIY build on, you guessed it, the safest place! Kijiji! Haha! In all seriousness it took us about a year or so to plan and figure out how to finance which led us in the direction of buying an already built house, as we decided to sell our condo and get out of the market, we had to wait for the sale to purchase. Once it was on the property, it took most of the summer to get going, and honestly we are still working on it! Like I said living tiny is much different than living with space for everything, and it takes time to really figure that out. Every space has to be purposeful and multipurpose and that is always changing with our family and a growing child.
How did you build your tiny house? We purchased it already built online. But had to renovate and hook it up ourselves.
Did you have any help? YES – getting it home was an adventure, after a wheel blew on the highway we had to pay $7,000 to have it towed the rest of the way (the original owner didn’t cut back the floorboards from the wheel enough so it was rubbing during transport and blew). Since we needed to hook up the house to the primary residence where we live, we needed an expert to hook up the water, bury the line and insulate it. We also needed help understanding the voltage vs appliances and hydro needs of the home so we didn’t blow anything. We renovated the galley kitchen and the bathroom as it was built to be hooked up for plumbing. We had to figure out our greywater system as well. It was a lot and needed help! Now we are mini experts but that is the challenge of a DIY build purchase.
Did you do it yourselves? The big work we used a general contractor friend who saved our lives! We did a lot ourselves though, a huge challenge with living tiny is well, space! Our house is 240 sqft, including a loft, so every space needs to be purposeful and multipurpose. With a toddler in tow, took a lot of planning. We had to live in the space and experiment with our previous habits and build new ones to make things work so we could find practicality and comfort with a smaller space. No one else could have done that for us, which is why I now coach others on these important considerations when they downsize.
Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? Of course! We paid $60,000 CDN – to go further if it is helpful to guide others – we sold our condo and wrote a sales agreement that was e-signed by us and the owner to pay the total of the tiny house purchase the day our house closed. It closed on a Thursday, and we wired the money that day. The next day our house was towed here.
What are bills/utilities like compared to before? Zero $$, we live on the property as Land Stewards, so we care for the property in exchange for parking / living / using the land that would otherwise sit here.
How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house? We have a colleague who owns land connected to the programs my husband works with, and the 6 acres here are in need of someone to care for it. So we wrote a proposal as to what we could do with the land, how we could care for it, and how that would benefit all involved. It has, it is, and it will continue to! I am actually currently working on building a resource pool that connects land owners with tiny house dwellers who would be interested in a Land Steward work-live exchange. Just working ever so hard to push city council to change some bylaws…as the story goes..! This is just one of many models of affordable housing we will hopefully find ourselves in one day.
Before going tiny, what was life like? Always amazing as long as we were together. Justin and I live very purposefully and we always have, I lost my parents young, Justin lost his hearing young, and we both know what it means to live everyday to its fullest and not take things for granted. We just took it to the next step and took a risk not many are willing to. Financially, it was stressful. By trade I previously worked in the Hospitality Industry, managing bars, nightclubs, weddings and events for years. I couldn’t do it anymore and I refused to work nights and weekends as a mother and miss those moments with my family. We were both working so much for living in such a small space (ironic I know, but it was expensive and nothing to show for it) So I chose to become an entrepreneur, and we found a way to cut $3,000+ in bills per month to around $500, commuting 2+ hours a day to nothing, and time together x10000 – financial freedom is sweet, indeed.
Is there anything from your old life that you miss? Not a damn thing. Everything is the same, we are just better versions of what we were. Honestly, I absolutely LOVE our house. I get anxious in big homes now haha. I wouldn’t trade our life now for the world and we say it every day.
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny? Time. So much time, and so little time in the best way. We do everything together now, we are building a life together side by side and Bodhi gets his parents so much more than he would have before. He’s the happiest boy in the world and loves to be outside more than anything. Honestly it brings me to tears knowing how happy he is and that we are paving a way for him to think differently, be independent and self reliant in his own right.
We have access to good food, we have built an amazing community of like minded new friends, our family is constantly around helping out on the property. We can afford to travel, we can afford for me to start a business. But mostly like I said, time with our son.
What about some challenges? Oh here we go! Honestly it hasn’t been a walk in the park. It’s H.A.R.D – this wasn’t easy. We always live in fear of the “powers that be” to come around and tell us we need to leave. (On that note, bylaw does know we are here, and has inspected our home, and has allowed us to stay until the zoning bylaws change, and no, we can’t tell you exactly where we live, sorry!). Getting AC and water hooked up to the house was really difficult, again DIY life. Figuring out what appliances and hot water heater work with our voltage limit was tough. Generally arguing about things in the dead heat of summer didn’t help either. We communicate well, but some things tested our patience. Insulating for winter was another challenge and figuring out how to wrap our pipes. All of this with a toddler and starting a business was a lot!
Any specific benefits/challenges to having a toddler in a tiny house? The benefits are insurmountable. He is outside all the time, his independent personality is amazing to see develop, he loves and respects animals and nature so much. We don’t have room for a “play area” but he finds joy in floor play and plays really well independently without need for us to guide his play or stimulate him, and of course outdoor play. He attends the Montessori toddler program during the day and the philosophies really align to simple living and the prepared environment. Challenges would be sound for one, as he gets older he wakes more easily and is still napping. But he is a great sleeper so it hasn’t been too difficult. We really don’t keep much for him, he wants to do what we are doing and we slow down for him to that. He doesn’t take up a lot of space. Winter was harder to get outside but we managed, and we just got cozy inside when we couldn’t!
What makes your tiny house special? It’s built around a community. Our friends, our family, our colleagues, our acquaintances are always inspired by what we are doing, curious enough to pop in and amazing enough to be a huge part of it. We have definitely found our people here with this lifestyle change and are so glad for it.
What is your favorite part of your tiny house? Inside would be our sectional, you would think that wouldn’t fit but it does, and we have the greatest family snuggles. Outside is just access to nature, all the time. We both love the pond behind our home, it’s magical! My husband loves his bees! Bodhi loves “dinos” (worms and bugs).
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny? Know why you are doing it. Ask yourself the hard questions. Don’t romanticize what you see on TV or Pinterest. It’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do, but it carries challenges that you need to be prepared for. There are so many things I wish we knew going into it that we know now, but the greatest things come out of those messes. Take your time and be careful with where you buy and where you park and why. The why of it all is the most important. Seek out proper resources from vetted experts. Always go to your municipal or city planning division to ask about by laws regarding temporary and permanent structures. Always insure.
Do you have a website, blog, or social media page where we can follow along? Yes! My website is www.thegivingtreefamily.com you can find our journey, what I do, the Simple Matters Blog and more!
Social is @thegivingtree.tinyhome – I document our journey as it happens daily and post
inspiring content about our tiny living journey!
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Natalie C. McKee
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Excellent! Don’t let the municipality tell you they won’t accept this. I am about to take on my local government over minimum square footage requirements in Haliburton, On to get them to allow tiny homes.
Might be a bit of a battle but times are changing. Our municipality wants to allow bigger homes on waterfront properties but not smaller ones. Really?
Good for you, Dan! Fight the good fight!
I admire your courage and determination for a more down to earth life. In a sense, I envy you and your life style. Good for you!