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Reflections on Tiny House Living: 5 Months in the Mountains

By Laura LaVoie

I had a couple of things I was thinking about writing for Tiny House Talk this week, but every time I started typing the words just weren’t pouring out as I had hoped. So I thought I would just tell you a little bit about what it has been like living in our tiny house since May of this year.

There was a lot of anticipation when it came to moving into our tiny house. Because of our circumstances, it took us three years to build the house itself. We also had to take care of some things from our old life before we could move into our new one. The biggest change for me came by quitting my full time job. Even though I was very much ready for a change and quite burned out on my job in general, it is still terrifying to leave behind that kind of stability for the unknown. I had worked with everyone for 8 years and it was tough leaving that family behind regardless of opportunities that I faced by moving on.

Reducing my living expenses was the most important thing that I could do to be able to make this transition. Without utility bills and rent I don’t have to make as much money to keep up with my other bills and expenses. It is a rewarding feeling.

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There are lots of things I have learned about myself moving to our tiny house on the mountain:

Laura LaVoie's Tiny House in the Mountains
  • I can live independently. I wasn’t sure how this whole freelance writing thing was going to go. And don’t get me wrong, I am not independently wealthy by any means. But I am happy to say that I’m doing pretty well. I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore so I was able to make that change. I am a better person because of it.
Front Porch of Laura's Tiny Cabin
  • I can live without television. There was a time when I would come home from work and park on the couch in front of the TV all night. I couldn’t even tell you what I watched, but I simply didn’t have any energy to do much else. Now that I am in control of what I do and when I do it, I feel more invigorated to experience my own life. Not that I don’t want the occasional TV show or movie, but I don’t feel compelled to “relax” by watching television.
Inside of Laura's Tiny Cabin in the Woods
  • I exercise more and I eat better. Because we built our home about 200 vertical feet up a mountain with no road access, exercise is simply a fact of life now. If we leave the mountain or if we simply need to go to the barn to get something, we walk up and down the trail to our house. I wasn’t someone who exercised much at all. In fact, I hated it. Now I walk the mountain every day and I am glad to do it. By the same token, because we don’t have conventional refrigeration we buy fresh food and eat it sooner. We don’t freeze things or even buy things that need to be frozen. If we buy it we eat it and that leads to eating better.
Kitchen and Sleeping Loft in Laura's Tiny House
  • I’m more involved. I find that living on the mountain means that I have to be very particular about what happens when I leave the mountain. I select things to do that make me happy and engaged. I am particularly fond of meeting new people.
Sitting Area
  • I live deliberately. There is nothing I do on a day to day basis now that I don’t connect with. When I am writing, I am fully involved. When I am cooking, I am fully involved. I read more. I walk more. Ultimately, I live more.
Solar Power for Laura's Tiny Cabin

As tiny house builders always say, this life isn’t for everyone. What I do hope is that everyone has an opportunity to find what it is they love and makes them feel alive. That makes them want to engage with life and enjoy their friends and family fully. The tiny life may not be for everyone but a richer, fuller, happier life is.

Laura's Tiny House in the Mountains

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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!
{ 40 comments… add one }
  • October 13, 2012, 9:56 am

    Laura, I’m sure glad you had writers block when it came to whatever topic you planned to write about, because your “second choice” topic is exactly what I want to read most at this point. Excellent post! Thank you!

    • October 13, 2012, 12:28 pm

      Hi Cheryl glad you enjoyed Laura’s article 🙂

  • meg & Joe
    October 13, 2012, 9:57 am

    Our life changed just as your has. My wife and I’s only regret is not doing it sooner. After one year of living this in a tiny house I can truly say I will never live any other way. A lot of people think were still crazy but I don’t care. This house has saved us, and my illness has driven that point home. Great article.

    • October 13, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Thanks for coming by Joe. You guys inspire me so much. Glad to hear that you’re getting better too.

  • October 13, 2012, 1:24 pm

    I love this, thank you for sharing your experience, Laura!

    I’m curious to know more about how you eat without refrigeration. In the spring I plan to downsize to 84 sq ft (a cargo van) and travel around N. America, and I will only have a 5-day cooler. Would love to hear about your diet.

    • October 17, 2012, 11:23 am

      We eat a lot of fresh foods fast. Go go to the farmers market at least once a week, sometimes twice. We do have a Stirling Engine cooler and a couple of traditional coolers that we use as well to keep things cold. As long as we can keep the beer cold, we’re happy.

  • sandy westbrook
    October 13, 2012, 2:45 pm

    thanks for the artical. love it. i changed my bed room in to a small house. and i have a seprate entry way in to my tiny home. i plan on renting the front out soon. got rid of alot of stuff, and feel so much freedom now.

    • October 21, 2012, 5:08 pm

      Hi Sandy, thanks for sharing! I love how you made the best with what you had. Wishing you the best.


  • Brandon Blake
    October 13, 2012, 7:02 pm

    Like Cheryl said, glad you wrote it. I ‘m planning on building one within the next 4-5 years.

    • October 21, 2012, 5:09 pm

      Thanks Brandon. I’d like to have one built within the next few years too. I’m thinking I’d still like to buy property with a normal home on it, rent it out, and build and live in my own tiny house out back.

  • Sel Gossett
    October 13, 2012, 7:23 pm

    Well put, Laura! You are less burdened, freer and really living.
    Consumerism is a seductive and paralyzing belief system: there you were on your couch passively being bombarded by fake lives, being hammered to want things you didn’t need.
    Now you are connected and engaged to real things.
    Sounds sane to me. And happier, too!

  • Paul - The Kind Little Blogger
    October 13, 2012, 8:39 pm

    Reading this story makes me want what she has so much more. I feel that living the status quo prevents me from experiencing so many things.

    • October 17, 2012, 8:46 pm

      I know exactly how you feel – that was exactly how I felt. I know you can do it!

  • Claudia
    October 13, 2012, 10:06 pm

    I currently live in a 223-square-foot apartment with a bar-size fridge. It’s so noisy that it drives me crazy, and I’d rather not have one at all. Not having any storage space to speak of forces me to plan meals ahead and shop frequently, usually only picking up enough groceries for two or three days at a time. As a result, I hardly ever waste food any more. If I ever have fruits and veggies on the verge of going off, I toss them into the blender and make a smoothie.

    Best of all, there are a few grocery stores within walking distance so I get my exercise at the same time.

    One last point: Most things we automatically refrigerate don’t need it!

    • October 17, 2012, 8:48 pm

      That is a very good point about refrigeration. We have learned that there are many things, including hard cheeses, butter, and eggs that don’t need to be kept in a refrigerator as long as they are kept out of direct heat and eaten quickly.

  • Hunter Dickerson
    October 14, 2012, 10:26 am

    Laura, thanks for the article! We are at the transition of getting out of our normal lives and in to a simpler Tiny House lifestyle. I have an opportunity to work with Tiny House builder Brad Kiettel with Tiny Texas Houses. I’ve already quit my job, but it’s still hard to make the transition.

    • October 21, 2012, 5:11 pm

      Hi Hunter! Let me know how it goes with Brad. I’m sure it’s a great opportunity.

  • edVerara
    October 14, 2012, 6:26 pm

    ThatZ ..fine!!..Freedom!!!…follow yOur hearts Desire..

    Leaving in this world. is suppose to be “nOt” Expensive!! happiness is fRee..! love your Tiny House as long as it is a hOme 4 yoU..

  • VAL
    October 14, 2012, 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful reflective article. I am still in the process of having my Small house completed and I will continue to putter in it throughout the winter finishing off the things I am capable of doing. Building it has been a wonderful journey and your article has excited me even more! Like you, Meg and Joe, I have had a number of comments regarding the “it’s so, so small” but they have not detered me. For someone who has all her life been a speedy high energy person, even taking my time (working on this since May)is such a big treat and I am surprised at the patience I have discovered within me. I hope I experience at least a tenth of what you all who have been living “tiny” have! Thanks everyone for sharing!

    • October 21, 2012, 5:13 pm

      Thanks Val and hope you’ll keep us up to date on the progress with your house. I’m sure you will experience a lot of joy throughout the process and especially afterwards when you’re enjoying the benefits.

  • AnthonyRizzo
    October 15, 2012, 8:59 am

    I would love to live like Laura but downsizing life when you have growing children between 23 and 5 and a spouse that’s addicted to commercial stuff it’s impossible. I’ve shown my significant other countless of small house designs that would accommodate our family of 6 and none of them excite her but if I show her a 2500 sq. ft. home with all the bells and whistles then her mouth begins to water. I’ve already figured out that a family of 6 could easily live in a home that’s 650 sq. Ft. Instead of bedrooms the home would have bednooks, that would save space for the main living area which would accommodate a place for lounging, reading and studying for the whole family. Alas until she becomes passionate about it as I am it will remain just wishful thinking on my part. Congrats Laura for being bold and changing your life. I know it must have been frightening at times but your courage has seen you through and the better times ahead are beginning to greet you.

    • October 21, 2012, 5:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing Anthony. It’s pretty challenging when partners have opposing views. Hopefully you can still make gradual changes that won’t give your spouse a “shock” and you can still benefit from some of these changes in the similar ways others are. It’s definitely possible to do something like that but surely does require everyone to be on board. Not sure that it’s worth it otherwise. Just my thoughts. Wishing you and your family the best.


  • Bill Riedinger
    October 17, 2012, 1:18 am

    I liked what you wrote because it was down to earth and even though you had some trouble for 3 years. You are enjoying a better life. Your tiny house is nice. [email protected]

  • October 18, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Great article! I agree. Of course. xo L

  • Juan Pablo
    October 18, 2012, 10:45 pm

    Very interesting article. I am thinking to build my own tiny house and i know it would be a huge change in my life and that a lot of things must be put aside, but i’m decided to live real life. Working 8 hours a day doing something we don’t like just for money to spend it all in things we don’t really need is not a life. 8 hours more are spended sleeping and the rest watching tv, and reading the news from the “reality”. Everybody is dead alive and i don’t wanna be one of them anymore.

    • October 21, 2012, 5:18 pm

      Thanks Juan Pablo well said brother.. I enjoy work but do encourage folks to be more mindful about their choices because happiness should come first and material things do not provide that (not for very long at least), true happiness comes from inside. It’s a state.

  • Sarah Dickison
    November 12, 2012, 12:41 pm

    Is there a reason that you do not have a garden or 2 chickens ? Do you have an out house ? Do you use a gravity fed water system for the sink and shower ? Sorry so many questions. We intend to convert a shed into a cabin for camping on our land in northern AZ and no water, utilities, or stores will be our main concerns. Thank you for sharing about the lack of refridgeration you words have been a blessing and beacon of hope that we can do it too. 🙂

  • Ruben
    January 9, 2013, 12:54 pm

    Need more information please $

  • Helen
    March 28, 2013, 10:29 am

    I would love to have a tiny house but my problem is: where do I put it?? How do you find a piece of land? And for people lucky enough to live in or near forests, woods, etc……how did you find your land? That’s the part I just don’t get and no one seems to be discussing it.

    • Alex
      March 28, 2013, 3:51 pm

      Excellent question.. You’re not alone. I’ve wrote about this a lot. So have others. There are lots of options.

      Craigslist is always a great resource if you have a good idea of where you want to go. Besides that here are some posts where you might be able to find discussions:

      I have a new category on our site just for ‘parking’:


      Hope this helps!


      • ~Rose~
        April 21, 2013, 7:05 pm

        I’m into this tiny house movement/thinking. I just bought two acres out in rural Oregon and I’m already being told I will have to do this and that and pay this and pay that and I HAVE to get a septic put in and HAVE to get a well drilled and HAVE to pay all sorts of fees for this that and the other thing. Anyone here a lawyer? lol.

        • Tom Zollinger
          May 9, 2013, 9:43 pm

          “Anyone here a lawyer?” Why, yes, as a matter of fact. Poor health convinced me to retire at 64. I contributed to the poor health by wrecking the car during(?) caused by (?) a diabetic seizure. I loved our 3500′ house. My dearly beloved tired of picking me up after falling down stairs and bought 5 acres and put a 1500′ single floor on it. We (she) has a prize winning herd of Nubians; a “herd” (3) of Black Angus (or should that be anguii?) I still fall. (Most recently breaking my “smart” shoulder. I am now training my less intelligent shoulder, and the index finger attached thereto, to type.) My dearly beloved also raises a herd of Bernese Mountain Dogs.

          Several years prior to disabling myself, we bought sustantial acreage in Appalachian Kentucky upon which we hope to establish our livestock “operation.” There is no building code. So, no building permits. We are “the law.” Our mountain estate will be small times three. A “full” basement to support two (three?) tiny floors of less than 200′ each. We will have septic and a drilled well. The second (MBR) floor will have a balcony on all four sides, a full sized shower and will be accessed by narrow stairs and sturdy banisters. No permits or fees, yet.

          No utility bills. OFF GRID. Solar electricity backed up by a diesel generator. Our well will serve our domestic water needs as well as our septic needs. No permits or fees, yet.

          The biggest change will relate to fencing. Having lived in Wyoming for over forty years, I have become accustomed to “fencing people and animals ‘OUT.'” Moving to Appalachia will require learning that a fence is to “KEEP THINGS IN.” Game, including the occasional black bear, may be harvested from any of our four 2d floor balconies. All such harvesting will be done by “she who must be obeyed.” Did I mention that vision is no longer a strength?

        • Nancy Sadewater
          December 13, 2013, 4:45 pm

          Tom, I hope you and your wife complete your home in Kentucky although my concern would be the stairs for you. I love tiny homes and hope one day to have one in the woods similar to your description. Should you continue to practice keep me in mind- a virtual paralegal. Lucky the different attorneys I work for now don’t require me in the office for specific hours so when possible I can work at home. Best of luck to you and “she who must be obeyed.”

    • Tom Zollinger
      December 15, 2013, 9:48 pm

      Helen. Finding a cheap (or expensive) piece of ground is as easy as turning on your computer. When, for instance I find a town with which I am unfamiliar, I google it. When there is a “hit” on the town, properties for sale magically appear. I grew up in KY. I love the Ozarks of Mo/Ark. I bounced back and forth, made a list of properties/real estate agencies and, when I had enough Ozark and Appalachian properties I could see in 4 or 5 days, the spouse and I took a long drive. We visited heavily timbered hills on the Licking, Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers. Anne grew up in Tucson and felt claustrophobic among the tall (very tall) leafy giants. Anne’s choice? 180 acres of hills and more hills, which had been regularly logged since surveyed by one D. Boone. It had also been reclaimed (successfully) following strip mining for coal. Asking price $150,000. We offered 69,000. We are now owners of a chunk of ground (mostly hills and, now, new trees). Most rural realtors post their properties on their website. Just pick a website and browse and understand that any price is a wish. In rural areas, zoning does not exist. If, like in Washington, Oregon you encounter the UBC, look elsewhere. While typing, I looked up Smith, KY and up popped this little piece of ground (Link Expired: zillow.com/homes/for_sale/2109554352_zpid/37.088597,-82.794342,36.32453,-83.919067_rect/3_zm/1_fr/)
      I had never heard of a place in KY called Smith. It is a “populated place in Harlan County within spitting distance of Martin’s Fork Lake. (That by itself gives you a bit of entertaining googling. It doesn’t hurt that Harlan County is beautiful. It is nearly impossible to find an undesirable piece of ground. The other day, I got a piece of mail from an old friend now living in some Godforsaken place in West Virginia. I looked and his town is in the New River Gorge. WOW! Pieces of ground magically appeared on my computer. WOWx2 Just go looking, Helen. You will recognize your dream when you find it.

    • Tom Zollinger
      December 15, 2013, 10:05 pm

      Helen. I just googled the lady (realtor) who sold the ground to me. The first, ond only property that popped up has a collection of pictures. A great looking piece of real estate. SO, Helen, I am discussing it. http://www.countryhomesofkentucky.com/kentucky/country-home-for-sale/206-acres-in-Elliott-County-Kentucky/id/1143913

      Now. All you need to do is lick your lips and click on the link.


  • Echo
    April 21, 2013, 6:59 pm

    altho i don’t live in a “tiny house” i’m kinda living the idea of it. i and my adult daughter are living in a 28′ travel trailer. alas we are living in a campground with full hook ups but this way of live is far superior to the life we had in a house and apartment. at first it was hard to let go of all the stuff i had accumulated over the years but, we got thru it and it was done. what an awesome feeling of freedom getting rid of all that stuff!!! i can not believe how light i now feel without all kinds of stuff cluttering up and weighing me down. my son is talking about getting some land and starting out with a tiny house. if he does that i just might park this trailer on his property and help him build. 😀

  • Tom Zollinger
    February 8, 2015, 12:57 am

    Not a “comment.” Just hoping for more daily stuff.

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