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She Downsized from 1200 Sq. Ft. to 300 Sq. Ft.

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I’m excited to share this story with you on how one of our readers recently made a big change in her life by downsizing from a 1200 sq. ft. home into a 300 sq. ft. tiny bungalow with a loft.

And she’s here to share her story with you today so I took the chance to ask her a few questions I thought you might want to ask that might help you on your journey towards living simply.

In many cases, people own their own land and build tiny on their own property mortgage-free which is a great way to do it but it’s not the only way to start living a simpler life.

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Downsizing: from 1200 SF to 300 SF

Living Simply in a 300 Sq. Ft. Tiny Bungalow

More Freedom? I think so… (but you be the judge)

THT: Thanks so much for sharing. I love your Bungalow! So can you tell me a little more about it? Did you build it?

No, I didn’t build it. My landlords built it when they built their main house. My front door roof connects with their back door roof.

Living Simply in a 300 SF Tiny House

THT: Do you know how long it took to build and how much it cost?

I’ll have to askΒ my landlord. He’s currently using reclaimed concrete sidewalk to build a patio that will extend from my front door to their back door. He’s about 1/4 of the way done.

Ladder to Loft

THT: What was your main motivation/reason for going tiny?

My main motivation to move into this little bungalow was to walk my talk. I decided, about a year ago, to sell my house (in a nearby town) and move to Carbondale, where I spent most of my time teaching and socializing.

I wanted to reduce my level of consumption, which meant moving into a small space, and give away and sell, at a drastic discount, much of my belongings.

I gave away most of my family heirlooms to my sister, who’s moving from Alaska to Asheville, NC. I am also committed to reducing my consumption of energy, and living in a small space helps me use less electricity.

The bungalow has radiant floor heating, and the water comes from a ditch on our property. All my water comes from the water rights my landlord owns.

Kitchen in the Tiny Bungalow

THT: And- how has it improved your life so far?

My life has been improved from living in my little bungalow by allowing me to un-clutter my life by eliminating unnecessary belongings, live in the town I love, enjoy watching deer eat our grass, shrubs, and berries without being intimidated by city lights or noise, and I’m able to spend more time enjoying friends and activities in my community because I have little to keep clean or maintain.

THT: Are you happier? How?

I’m happier because I’m walking my talk. I am able to represent who I am, not only in what I say, but how I live my life. Living in a tiny home gives me the opportunity to practice my integrity (I am my word, and my word is who I am) Thanks for contacting me!


Mary thank you so much for sharing some of your life with us. You’re a true inspiration.


My Thoughts on Mary’s Downsizing Journey

I love this story because it’s unique. In this case, she’s renting her tiny bungalow instead of what most people do when they decide to buy land, build, etc..

So she didn’t have to pay a lump sum of money for land nor take the time and energy to build it.

It sounds like she simply pays an affordable rent every month and doesn’t have to worry about owning her land, doing repairs, and all of that.

Sounds like she has a pretty great thing going and I’m happy for her. How about you?

Share your own Simple Living Story with us…

If you have your own downsizing story to share with us we’d love that! You can contact me directly right here.

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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!
{ 37 comments… add one }
  • libertymen
    November 14, 2013, 4:13 pm

    This mode of living isnt for everybody. #1 its illegal.
    If you want a small house,fine.
    Its not the American dream to be paying your landlord,

    • Alex Pino
      November 14, 2013, 5:57 pm

      Exactly and everyones idea of the American dream isn’t the same either, for her, maybe this is it? What’s yours?

      • liberymen
        November 15, 2013, 6:20 am

        Nobody should condemn a small house,Its a non issue.You should get what you can afford.Nobody should buy the Bigger house is better nonsense. Why buy into that?Social pressure? HAAAAAA
        I think these teenie houses are fine for second homes,without a major systems investment.They are dubious as permanent homes.
        The infrastructure for them,well,septic,driveway,electrical hookup,costs the same anyway.Land ?
        Codes are stacked against you living permanently unless you head for the boonies.
        With a trailer house you will be in a campground or trailer park.So mobility has a price.Size wise too
        If this situation fits the needs of this person,fine.
        I just feel her mantra is very specific to her and her alone.

    • alice h
      November 14, 2013, 6:46 pm

      It may not be illegal to have and rent out an accessory dwelling in that area. If it works for the landlord and tenant then it’s a successful arrangement. Not everyone needs or wants to own their own property and not all landlords take more than fair value.

      Sure looks like those cats are enjoying the radiant floor heat.

      • Comet
        November 14, 2013, 7:57 pm

        Once upon a time there was NO such thing as an “American Dream”—

        So changing what people think of as this non-defined notion is up to the individual. No one came along and told the Plains tribes that they could not live in a tepee because it was—too small. Ditto the Pueblo.

        If this was MY American Dream I would use these historic precedents to fight this.

        Around here in the North East there are a number of historic structures—some inhabited some not–that are smaller than these houses. In fact one reason some of them were built this small is because of taxation on number of floors; windows etc. If one of these had been inhabited for the past 250 years I am pretty sure that no one could come along and demand that you ADD ON to come up to some amount of square footage.

        And while I agree that the typical “American Dream” does not always include paying rent to a landlord—for some this is actually a better “deal” than paying either a mortgage or investing a lump sum. There are several articles out there on exactly this topic. While on one side there is the “fact” that you don’t gain equity while renting look at what housing values have done—many people who would have been FINE if renting found themselves with houses “Under water” and bad credit forever not to mention having to find another place to live—–probably and ironically a rental—and with tremendous debts.

        IF they had been renting too they might find themselves with more money to do things they wanted to like travel. If the goal is not to try and preserve capital in the form of an investment—ie a house and land—then renting makes sense for some. IF you don’t have anyone to pass this investment on to—ie you don’t have kids or they are well off enough to not need this inheritance–than using the money for yourself is a way to live YOUR dream.

        • Kevin
          November 14, 2013, 10:37 pm

          I like the boomarang cabinet handle or cabinet door lock in the upper cabinet. Pretty Cool!!

        • Alex Pino
          November 15, 2013, 7:28 am

          I noticed that too! Really cool, thanks for pointing it out as I forgot to πŸ˜€

        • Bert
          January 23, 2014, 12:21 pm

          Like her home but where is the bathroom..and what is she heat the home with. She could me a good one for a rocket stove also.. Thanks for the home like it..

        • libertymen
          November 15, 2013, 6:33 am

          If you really look at the historic context,especially in the NE,you will find that most homes were pretty small anyway.
          Go to the Historic American Building Survey website and you will find lots of smaller houses.Check out the Cape Cod towns. They are not as small as these tiny houses however.
          Yes.You should not take on more expense than you can handle.Renting for a period is common to everyone anyway.

        • anita
          November 19, 2013, 8:29 am

          Owning a home is not the be-all and end-all for everyone. I can’t wait to retire and ditch my house. It’s a good thing for now and a good investment, but will be an albatross around my neck later. I can’t afford to travel much, but I CAN afford to live. Everyone has to live somewhere, so I plan to live wherever I want, renting, for 6-8 months at a time. I can rent an apartment or tiny home in Key West, Hawaii, Williamsburg, Homer, Tasmania, Peru, England, or wherever I want to be, until I get too old to do it. That is MY American Dream.

        • Alex Pino
          November 19, 2013, 10:34 am

          Exactly my point, Anita, the real question for everyone should be, “what is YOUR American dream?”

          Everything else, you can block out.. It’s mental clutter. Other people’s opinions. It’s your life and you can choose to live it how you want to whether you rent or own.

          For some owning is a dream.. For others, it’s a hassle they don’t want to deal with even though in lots of cases it’s financially smarter.

          But many times, it’s all about timing.. If you decide to buy after an economic boom, more than likely, you’re doomed (financially) because the market will correct itself. Anyway.. Thanks Anita πŸ™‚

        • Lisa E.
          December 29, 2014, 4:13 pm

          You don’t necessarily gain equity while owning, either. I own, but the property values have tanked since I bought in during the housing boom. I’ll be lucky to get out of it what I bought it for.

          I’m sorry I didn’t rent back then instead of buying yet another home. (This is before the THM got underway.)
          It would have been much better to have rented because now that I want to leave and build my THOW, I can’t because I’m tied to a DOA housing market.

          The man across the street owns a beautiful antebellum with three floors and huge, long windows that sparkle and shine inside out with crystal chandeliers in the foyer but he’s had that place on the market now for the past seven years and he hasn’t sold it yet.

          My place is nowhere near as sumptuous although it is an historic building. I’ll be ecstatic if I can sell this place at all and get out from under. Sorry I didn’t rent. A place like the above would have been perfect for the bridge time.

      • Liz
        March 28, 2017, 1:44 pm

        “and not all landlords take more than fair value.” – absolutely agree, Alex. I believe that given the right landlord-tenant relationship, there is a true symbiotic exchange that works for everyone. These types of landlords apparently get something more valuable than piles of money and are, perhaps, themselves tiny house dreamers who want to keep what they have.

    • Eric
      February 16, 2016, 2:48 pm

      What I find illegal, well immorally illegal, is councils (or whatever they are called in the US) mandating minimum sizes. There are houses existing that are smaller, but if you want to build new it has to be no less than blah blah sq ft. Oh, and you HAVE to hook up to electricity whether you need it or not. Big stink worldwide about that woman in Florida who fought the authorities in court and lost. Talk about corrupt legal systems. While I can see “some” justifications for hooking up to sewerage systems, if you can build a safe septic system or have a safe composting type toilet then so be it.

      Local politicians world wide are amongst the most corrupt and inept people there are. Taxes should be based on the services the town/city needs to provide and should then be based on a per unit/building basis. Does a person in a $5,000,000 house go to the toilet more often than someone in a $50,000 house? Statistically no. Individually sure, some people may, others may not. Same goes generally for other services that local authorities provide.

  • Darcy
    November 15, 2013, 1:45 am

    Now here’s a woman taking charge of her life. She is independent, downsized all that crap she never uses, changed her living life style to suit her own needs and now she is truly happy. So she pays a fee for rent, has a new home that allowed two wonderful cats, her cost are minimal, minor up keep. Good job Mary. Be careful if landlords, they themselves may decide to downsize in the future which may leave you with a new landlord that May not see things the way you like. It is always good to have land that is yours. No one can ever decide to change your life for you. Radiant floor is a well deserved treat. Thanks for including your two cats in your downsizing. I would de clutter my space a little more and have less stuff on the counters and table. I really do hope you have a bathroom with running water.

    • Mary
      March 27, 2017, 8:11 pm

      I did have a bathroom, complete with a shower, cupboards, pedestal sink, and toilet, all with a nice window looking out onto the fields and woods.

      I moved to Italy in March, 2016, returning to the US and moved to Boulder, CO. I now rent an apartment with a friend. My tiny home life is on hold, for now.

  • November 15, 2013, 12:21 pm

    What a sweet space. Thanks for sharing Mary.

    • Alex Pino
      November 15, 2013, 1:03 pm

      glad you liked it Tonita, hope you’re well and happy in your tiny house πŸ™‚

  • Dominick Bundy
    November 30, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Very nice and inspiring story. Too bad she doesn’t own that little house, Also too bad it would be considered illegal (because of the size) to live in. We are supposed to be the land of the free. But when it comes to the space we choose to live in Our government then starts to dictate on how big that should be. I say if one only desires to live in a tiny 100sq, foot shed. That is kept up and well maintained then so be it. After all is’t that what freedom is suppose to be about?

  • Glen Wasson
    January 22, 2014, 6:49 pm

    Everyone seems to forget, you NEVER own your own permanent building. Just try not paying taxes, think of as rent, and see how long you have your American dream. The city supplies water, garbage and sewer, still need gas and electric. Very, Very few ever actually OWN their own home.

    OK, I am an old grouch. Glen Wasson

    • Bert
      January 23, 2014, 12:25 pm

      put a lean on that house and propity by law they can not touch it..An neather can the crook goverment ..Oh constution give us the right to keep our homes so stand up and do it..And GETER DONE..

      • Eric
        February 16, 2016, 2:56 pm

        Cough, cough, Lein not Lean! Sigh, 3 lines of text and 6 spelling mistakes.

        And sorry, you are wrong, if there is a Lein against the property the authorities can get a court order to confiscate and sell the property to satisfy the said debt against said authority. Any outstanding monies would then be dispersed to whomever had the lein over the property. So, rather pointless putting a lein on your own property isn’t it?

        • Hazel
          March 29, 2017, 9:26 pm

          Actually, it’s “lien.” πŸ™‚

    • shoshona
      March 27, 2017, 4:38 pm

      We have made a fortune owning real estate. Renting is a dead loser. Just one triplex house alone next door to our duplex brings us almost $35,000 a year in net rents; our downstairs another $24,000 a year in net rents. Net after all costs including taxes and insurance, repairs etc. And the values have gone up almost 25% in the last 2 years.

  • August 13, 2014, 5:58 pm

    This is Mary, the renter of this little bungalow. I have an update for the square footage of my place…180 sf. The floor is 120 sf, and the loft is 60sf. I do have a yummy bathroom, with storage shelves, toilet, sink and shower. I keep my cat’s litter box in the shower, since I shower at the gym. And, like I mentioned in my essay, my heat is radiant floor heating. The water comes from our well, and is heated in the main house (landlord’s), then comes to me.

    • mountaingypsy
      December 30, 2014, 6:50 am

      Mary, your place is adorable. I notice your cats are very content, so that says a lot too! ha

    • keepyourpower
      March 27, 2017, 8:00 pm

      The word “ditch” for your water really made me think!
      Ditches in my area, are run off water, with animal feces, chemicals from lawns, etc.
      I was about to ask what you use for a water filter!

  • Cindy
    December 31, 2014, 7:45 pm

    I’m new at this tiny house business. What is the minimum square footage the government allows legally in the U.S., or where can I find that information?

    • Alex
      June 4, 2015, 8:38 pm

      Minimum square feet according to IBC is 320 square feet.
      There are a few exceptions to building code requirements such as an addition to an existing house. An auxiliary building, mobile buildings on wheels. In my state you can build anything less than 200 square feet without a permit. You can get an electrical service for a water well before building house, and then build house and hook it up with a plug to the power pole without a permit . Another way is to build on commercial property where there is no minimum number of square feet. The building officials in the southern states seem to be a lot more reasonable . There are also still a few areas of the country where there are no building codes or enforcement at all ! Some other ideas :
      You can live on a houseboat on a private pond as no building code or permit is required and my state doesn’t require licenses for boats (only boat motors ). A lot of people around my area just buy a shed and after it is on lot convert it into a house.
      Hope this helps.

  • Sarah
    March 27, 2017, 5:14 pm

    Alex, I really appreciate this delightful story of a woman deciding to live her life by her own standards, no one else’s. Kudos to you Mary! Love the flooring, love the cats, think everything looks perfect. I am not a cat person and your cats look happy to me. I think this is wonderful, just wish I had the guts to do something like this.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 28, 2017, 11:25 am

      I’m so glad you like it πŸ™‚

  • Kurt
    March 27, 2017, 6:26 pm

    “…because I have little to keep clean or maintain.” This and lower living costs are the main benefits to this or the mobile lifestyle.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 28, 2017, 11:25 am

      Being able to clean our tiny apartment so quickly is a HUGE plus πŸ™‚

  • Susanne
    March 27, 2017, 8:20 pm

    The only problem with renting is since we can’t predict the future is what happens if one doesn’t have the money later to rent? Unless you are lucky enough to set aside a massive amount for the future ., which I certainly am unable to do.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 28, 2017, 11:21 am

      I think you might have the same issue with owning, though. Even if you don’t have a mortgage (woohoo!), you will still owe property taxes at least, which aren’t always inexpensive. That being said, there are many downsides to renting, for sure!

      • Eric
        March 28, 2017, 6:15 pm

        Natalie, you make a very good point regarding property taxes. Local Governments, worldwide I might add, seem always to dream up ways of demanding more and more money requirements from property owners. Wonder what would happen if nobody paid at all? Having seen various property tax amounts on property throughout the States (I’m from NZ btw) I am astounded to see some people pay upwards of $US30,000 per year in property taxes in some locales. And we aren’t talking massive landholdings and mansions necessarily either. I decry the amount of rates (property tax term in NZ) I have to pay per year… 2016 was $NZ 2636 per year… a tough ask is someone is on a limited income that’s for real.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          March 29, 2017, 8:50 am

          Yes it can really add up depending on where you are living! Something to keep in mind.

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