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The Tiny House Profile: What Makes a Person Build Small?

I had the opportunity to speak with Alex from right here at Tiny House Talk the other day. We had a great conversation and he asked a lot of great questions. Some of the things he asked got me thinking about where this all started and just exactly how we got to a point in our lives where building and living in a tiny house seemed like the right decision.

Matt and I have been together a long time – nearly 18 years. We met in college and we were 19 and 20 when we started dating. It’s funny because a lot of people want to know how the two of us can live and work together but we just don’t think about it like that. We like spending time with each other so it just comes naturally. We have always had very complimentary dreams. Those dreams didn’t always include a tiny house; especially since we didn’t even know what a tiny house was back then, but they always included a desire to live in a more extraordinary way.

When I think back on it, I realize that the tiny house idea was really not that far from some of our earlier yearnings for adventure. Maybe it is possible that the concept was always in our DNA but until we discovered the tiny house movement we just didn’t realize it.

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Laura's Tiny House

Photo by Laura LaVoie

One of our first ideas was to buy an RV and live in it all over the country. This certainly sounds familiar when you put it in the tiny house context. In fact, I would say that the majority of tiny house builders are interested in a location independent lifestyle. When we went to get Piglet from her original home in Pennsylvania we rented a Winnebago from Cruise America and made a vacation out of it. We stopped at several places along the way including Six Flags and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. We slept in campgrounds. We got our kitten; who was only 13 weeks old and 2 pounds at the time. She’s nearly 12 years old now. We were so excited when she just settled into the RV like it was where she belonged and we thought we might be able to do it permanently. Then we got back home and returned the camper and went back to our conventional lives.

At some point the idea of living in an RV turned into buying a sailboat. I think we were ready to leave Michigan, where we both grew up, and we could romanticize living on the ocean. The plan was put on the back burner when we had an opportunity to move to Atlanta. It was because of that move to Atlanta that we had access to Asheville and fell in love with these mountains. Truth is living in our tiny house is a lot like living in a boat.

Things changed for us once again when we realized we needed to live in the mountains. We finally found exactly that thing, the passion, which made us want to take the leap into the unconventional. Matt studied several alternative building methods including Cordwood Masonry and Earthships before we learned about Tumbleweed Tiny Houses from a friend. The tiny house was perfect. So we built it.

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There are lots of paths to tiny living. I would love to hear from Tiny House Talk readers. If you’re planning to build or are in the process of building your tiny house, what led you to this point? What got you motivated? What drove you to the tiny house lifestyle?

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Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Meg & Joe
    November 4, 2012, 10:49 am

    For me I was tired of cooking for a living. I was sick of giving someone else my hard earned money too. Rent and utilities took a lot of that hard earned money away. My cost of living bills were as much as a mortgage on a large house. That money evaporated away, making someone else wealthy for doing nothing in return, I got fed up. Now all my money is mine, I No longer cook for a living (26 years of 80+ hour weeks), I have a lot more free time, I’m happier, My wife works part time, our cost of living is that of food, and its made my stroke easier to handle. Most people lose their homes after something as devastating as a major stroke. Our tiny house has saved us…no lie.

    • November 5, 2012, 9:37 am

      I completely understand what you’re saying. I don’t make a lot of money these days, but I don’t spend a lot of it either. The tiny house made my dreams possible.

  • DJ
    November 4, 2012, 5:44 pm

    I find your writings on tiny house living very inspirational, fun, and informative. I’m looking at and dreaming about small and tiny spaces more and more these days, as our children are reaching the age when they might be on their own in a few years. I miss the ease of small spaces and the feeling of lightness that comes with fewer possessions. I can’t imagine ever being able to retire and continue to live in a larger home. I am always interested in seeing tiny homes that do not rely on having a sleeping loft, because realistically I can’t count on being able to climb ladders for the rest of my life. I know my husband and I could live in a tiny home, since we did so when we first got married, a teeny-tiny mother-in-law unit, smaller than most tiny homes, as it had no loft. We had a small fold out foam loveseat to sleep on. It was a cozy and lovely space… except for the mice!

    • November 5, 2012, 9:38 am

      Thank you for the kind words. I have recently seen several tiny house options without sleeping lofts so I know that it is possible. Keep working on your plan and you’ll be there when you’re ready.

  • Nancy
    November 5, 2012, 6:09 pm

    I am retired and older so the possibility of climbing into a loft each night is probably not realistic long term but I fantasize about living very small or even tiny. My favorite house I ever lived in was the smallest and it made everything so easy. I particularly liked my tiny kitchen because everything I needed to do simply required turning one direction or the other. My husband is not quite where I am right now, but I hope some day to make this dream come true.

    Laura, I very much enjoy reading your posts here and on your blog. You and Matt are a great inspiration to us all.

  • Carolyn B
    November 12, 2012, 2:27 pm

    I am one who will never go tiny simply because of finances and disability. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming of smaller floor plans. I’m almost obsessed with looking at tiny/small floor plans that don’t use a loft for sleeping or storage.

  • sunshineandrain
    December 30, 2012, 2:49 am

    I have been reading and dreaming about tiny houses for a few years now. I have drawn several plans, the current one (and the one likely to get built for real) is a house (8′ x 16.5′), + covered porch (8′ x 3.5″) = (8′ x 20′), trailer bed dimensions (102″ x 20′). My trailer, a gooseneck, tandem with 7000# axles, just arrived 11/21/12.

    For DJ and Nancy,
    At the rear is the bed area that I may build to slide onto the top of the gooseneck during the day to provide more open floorspace. No climbing ladders for me on a daily basis.

    I also have a nine-foot aluminum (wheelchair) ramp instead of steps, leading to the porch. I want my house to be as accessible as possible for my elder family and friends and for when I get older.

    to continue,
    I would say that my motivation for living tiny is a love of the outdoors, God’s green earth, and adventure, walking, hiking, backpacking, camping, etc. Taking only what I need and improvising when needed.

    About 18 years ago, I came to realize that I didn’t need all the possessions I had accumulated. So, I started purging every time that I moved. I still hadn’t gone through and gotten rid of all that I had until my house burned to the ground in August 2012.

    I now have a fresh start and a new adventure. I am looking forward to living tiny and satisfied and content, etc.
    December 30, 2012 sunshineandrain

  • Jake Levi
    November 9, 2013, 8:01 am

    The tiny house is something that is the answer for a great many of us, and it settles into a real home when we spend the time to make our dreams real. Mine is a combination of many Tiny House ideas wrapped into a modern day Irish Travellers wagon. 8′ wide by 20′ long, bed in the rear, raised for drawers underneath, a wood stove to the right as entered, composting commode, propane cooking, bookcase and desk, solar panels on the roof, and heavy duty axles and tires for traveling. Of course a litter box, plus sleeping pad for the dog, pulled by my heavy chevy van.

    Many ideas contributed from the Tiny Homes site, and the books shown there. And a dimly remembered photo of a Travellers wagon in Ireland with a little girl standing next to it.

    Thanks to Laura and Alex and many others here who have helped to form my own tiny home in my mind.

  • Murray
    November 27, 2013, 2:36 pm

    Im in Ontario Canada and wonder about living in the small homes in the winter time. I have seen some of Ross Chapins plans and designs and i really like them. Are there are small homes communities that you know of in Canada.
    I have a small cabin in the woods that is 192 sq ft and it sleeps 5. I am consideing doing a reno to make it more self sufficent and sleep only 2. The wood stove keeps it too warm in the winter and would like to find a smaller woodstove system. Anythoughts on this. I have designed a few cube homes in the 320 sqft range as well that are 16’x1’6×16′ but never had a chance to build them. Please write me at your leisure and put me on the mailing list.

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