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Woman Escapes High Rent with $1000 Tiny Pop-up Camper

When 22 year old Lily Kemp wanted to escape the trap of high rent in New Zealand she made a $1000 vintage pop-up camping trailer her affordable tiny housing solution.

Today she parks it in someone’s backyard and pays much, much less in rent. According to Living Big in a Tiny House, she now even has enough free time and money to take months off of work during summers to enjoy life and relax. Pretty cool, right?

As far as the camper goes, this is the most homey pop up camping tailer I’ve ever seen! Inside you’ll find a tiny kitchen, sleeping area, and dinette. I think she’s really smart for doing this, don’t you? She found a way to live simply on much less money than most people and she’s enjoying the process too. I see a bright future for her! How about you? What are your thoughts on living in a tiny pop up camper?

Woman Escapes High Rent with a Tiny Pop Up Camper


Images © LivingBiginaTinyHouse.com


lily-pop-up-camper-tiny-living-003 lily-pop-up-camper-tiny-living-004

Images © LivingBiginaTinyHouse.com

Video Tour and Interview with Lily

Learn more: http://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/pop-top-camper/

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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!
{ 65 comments… add one }
  • Shane Crawford
    February 19, 2015, 3:51 pm

    I’m sure that young Lily must be enjoying this, regrettably it looks to be only a temperary solution. For the rest of us who live in climates like Canada not much help.

  • Cahow
    February 19, 2015, 4:16 pm

    Oh, Alex, dear e-friend,

    Sometimes with the subject title of your articles I feel as if I’m reading a “Tattler” rag from the U.K. with “Jaw Dropping Headlines” such as “I had an alien baby…twice!” or “Family of Four live on a Thimble!” LOL

    Lily hasn’t ESCAPED RENT…she has REDUCED HER RENT, drastically, says the original article. BIG difference, my friend! ~giggle~ It puts me to mind of the “Couples Try Living in a Tiny House” when all they truly did was visit it for a couple of hours and make a pot of tea. 😉

    Lily and her camper are a charmer. I visited the official website and there’s a bit more info on there. I can’t tell if she’s taking a Gap Year or not; my chief concern with HER and many other’s like her where I read about them only making enough money to get by, is that they have innocently adopted the Grasshopper & Ant philosophy. I’m ALL for Gap Years but if you are working the LEAST amount that you can and not putting away extra dough aside for either a plot of land for yourself, illnesses, or old age than you’re cheating yourself in the long run.

    I know from personal experience that you can travel extensively and STILL work full time and SAVE for the future; it’s NOT “either/or”.

    • Gloria
      February 19, 2015, 5:16 pm

      Alex didn’t say “escapes rent”, he said “escapes high rent”. That is rather like saying “reduces her rent”.

      • Cahow
        February 19, 2015, 7:31 pm

        Gloria: this is copied from the header–“Woman Escapes Rent by Living in $1000 Tiny Pop-up Camper.”

        Karen: “Buzz Kill”? Being socked with a $15,000 medical bill from a spill off of a dirt bike IS the buzz kill if you have NO SAVINGS!

        Moderation, my friend, Moderation. Earn, spend a bit, save a lot.

        • Eric
          January 28, 2018, 5:21 pm

          Medical bill of $15,000? Not in NZ. If one spills off a dirt bike it is covered by ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation – Govt Entity) and would only need to pay any excesses for treatments… typically $15ish.

          Life threatening illnesses needing hospital treatment? Free. Covered by general taxation.

          See how NZ is better than the States because of no exorbitant Medicaid or whatever it is called now. No being turned away because you can’t afford hospital bills. BTW mostly public hospitals, private hospitals would make up maybe 5% of all hospitals.

      • gloria
        February 20, 2015, 1:32 am

        ah ha…i’ve now found two headlines!

    • Karen
      February 19, 2015, 6:12 pm

      Buzz kill. You are making a lot of assumptions and judgments on very little info. Go Lily! Live the life you want. I love your pop-up.

      • Charlie Knight
        February 19, 2015, 9:49 pm

        And Lily is one adorable lady with a great smile and a love for the peacful and quiet things. Go for it Lily. You make me wish I were 20 again.

        Charlie, from Springfield, MA, USA

    • February 19, 2015, 7:49 pm

      The only person I know who can work full time and travel extensively was Paul Twitchell, who mastered Eckankar, the ancient science of soul travel, by being in two places at once. Oh, and a tractor trailor driver.

    • Pat
      February 20, 2015, 10:42 pm

      Dear Cahow,
      I always scroll the comments section to read your thoughts first because I appreciate your pragmatic ideas about the tiny houses Alex shows us. And I agree with you about the Grasshopper & Ant philosophy. I am hopeful your wisdom will help the younger folks. Please continue to share.

      Alex, thank you for continuing to provide interesting homes and a forum for discussion.
      Best wishes!

      • Cahow
        February 25, 2015, 11:47 am

        Dear Pat,
        I am so deeply touched by your comment that I can not adequately express my gratitude or appreciation of your kind words.

        Bless you a thousand times over for taking the time to elevate my day and my life.

        Fondly, Cahow

      • AIO
        May 7, 2016, 9:16 pm

        I completed a Masters degree, had a “traditional” job & waited a long time to have a child with my husband. We were waiting to when we were “well-settled” & “stable” yet that never came, & in many ways is an illusion anyway. We worked really “hard” for a long time, with little energy or money leftover to enjoy life. That was not worth it for us. We were also very prudent with money, shared a car, etc. Life is worth it now. We are traveling & “homeschooling” (minus “the home”). I get to actually see my family & enjoy life. Ironically, we have more money now than we did then; it is there when needed. Yes, to some people what we are doing is crazy. Yet, all the older people I meet tell us repeatedly to enjoy life now, love is what is important, now is life, money is great but not the important thing & you can’t take it with you. They are selling their houses for various reasons. I love houses & not opposed to houses at all, but being with my family is more important (I’m sure you can have both happily but it hasn’t come to be for us just yet). I’ve had several friends my age die from cancer. None of them wished they had worked more or saved more or even talked about their houses. Each person needs to live their own life how they see fit. What some might see as “the ant & grasshopper lifestyle”, I see as spending time with & enjoying my family, as focusing on what is important to us. We are doing what is right for us: learning, loving each other, being together, enjoying Nature. To each his own. There is no one “right way” to live life. Bless us all. Peace to all.

    • Ashley Jean
      February 23, 2015, 2:23 pm

      @Cahow …
      If Lily is anything like myself and many others interested in the tiny house movement, switching over to tiny-house-living is a wonderful lifestyle change. It many not be an easy adjustment right away, yet in the long run we learn how to live simply and frugally without the need of a high income to buy our happiness. I’ve lived on both sides of the spectrum, from devoting 40plus hrs/wk in full-time work to having little to no income at all. For me, having enough to “get by” brought me more happiness than having a high income.

      The tiny-house-movement gives us the opportunity to do away with high rent and mortgages in order to put that money to better use for us. We are able to save money for our future and for our health & happiness rather than investing it in the common materialistic lifestyle. This change allows us the ability to take time off from full-time work to spend more time with the ones we love, to spend more time creating and inventing, to spend more time exploring this crazy adventure we call life.

      This lifestyle helps us recognize what IS important in our lives.

      Everyone is different.

      While Lily’s story and many others may not sound ideal for one person, for others it may be the exact inspiration they need to help them on their life journey through happiness and be the perfect motivation to help them pursue their dreams.

      • Cahow
        February 23, 2015, 7:30 pm

        Ashley Jean: yours was a beautiful and well thought out answer to my question. Thank you for taking the time to post it. I respect what you wrote and your insight.

        My concern comes about from reading various interviews on Alex’s site where the person/couple state, “We only work when we need to and plan to travel for several years.” VERY few of the tiny house articles that I’ve enjoyed state, “We’re working like dogs to maximize our savings so that we can buy land and own our tiny house, outright.” ( Yes, there are a few who have stated this is their plan but very, very few.) The prevailing attitudes STATED seem to be “Live For The Moment”. Well, unless you plan on checking out of life by age 35, “life” continues on and then, suddenly, you’re a penniless and desperate senior with no savings and poor health.

        Increasingly, I’m seeing shelter after shelter being shown as a viable living space….if you a) live where the temperatures never dip beneath 70 degrees and b) you have a relative that allows you to park on their land. Please note that I specifically said “shelter” rather than tiny sustainable investment HOUSE; both Lily’s shelter and the “coffin on wheels” that was recently profiled are NOT long term in the least with 0% ability to increase in resale value.

        So, what I see in the future are a slew of 30-something World Travelers who’ve sampled their way through every micro brewed beer and who have shelved their careers in favour of living like Holly Golightly. They own no investments that have increased in value since they own NO LAND and their temporary shelter is now sitting in a landfill. A 30+ year old who is re-entering the job market is in direct competition with a fresh and hungry college grad that is current with their skills vs. 10 year old out-of-date skills. NO employer is going to hire you based on how many trails you’ve hiked, sunsets you’ve seen or countries you’ve traveled…unless you plan on working for the park service or REI.

        Please don’t misunderstand me: I love the concept of “Living Within Your Means” and downsizing; I’ve lived that way my entire life. However, it seems to me that quite a few Millennials are living their lives “backwards”– traveling and exploring the world when they should be building up equity and job experience. How my generation grew up is the following: go to Uni; major in a field; go into that field; invest!, get into a 401K plan; buy small and sell BIG!, and when you’re in your 60’s, you cash in your investments and 401K, sell your home that you bought for pennies and now sells for pounds, use that money to buy a small home (completely paid off) and THEN travel the globe. In your retirement, you donate endless time to global and local concerns and visit endlessly with family and friends. Sounds just like a Millennial’s view of life, right? But rather than using up your most productive years to have fun and then trying to build up equity and savings, you use your prime years to build up security and then sit back, coast and relax in your later years.

        I have 3 children: 18, 23 and 26. ALL three of them have Uni degrees and full time jobs. ALL three of them own either land or a home; we didn’t loan them .01 penny! My 18 year old son saved every nickel he’s earned since he was 12 years old and working on a truck farm; last November he bought 2 acres of land out here in Michigan. His buddies and he are planning on building a “Bachelor’s Camp” this Summer, where they can camp, hide out from skitter’s and rain and also so he can “learn his land” and what it has to offer for the best place to build a permanent structure. He figures that by age 25, he’ll own both the land and a permanent tiny house on that land, completely paid for. THAT’S SECURITY, both for NOW & The Future.

        As my Grandpa used to tell me, “God quit making land on the 3rd Day but Man keeps wanting Land EVERY day!” We impressed this onto our children since early childhood and as parents, we feel that all three of our kids are setting themselves up for as safe a financial future as can be guaranteed, based on a stable economy and no global war.

        I know it sounds silly, but as a Mum, I just wring my hand’s with worry about all the young 20-somethings that are taking their most productive years to hike trails and “contemplate life” rather than establishing themselves in careers and building up equity. You can do BOTH, you know: it’s called “Vacation Time” and a Savings Account.

        Thanks again, Ashley Jean, for responding and I hope that you take my comment as concern and not criticism. 😀

        • Jaye
          May 7, 2016, 4:37 pm

          Oh, come on. Sooooo many people have toiled day after day after day in jobs they hated just to save save save for retirement so that when the time comes they can FINALLY travel and see the world. Then they get sick and can no longer travel. Then they die.

          I completely agree that Millenials need to learn how to work and save money, but I disagree that they need to follow the old mold in order to do so.

          There’s no such thing as “security” for the future.

          There is only now.

          Young Lily will probably become the founder of some multi-million dollar business or write a best seller right there in her little pop-up tent.

          P.S. University degrees are becoming less and less necessary, and they’re fraught with more and more social enterprise (read drinking and drugs) than anything else.

          “Bachelors Camp”? Come on.

          And the phrase “security for both now and the future” is nothing but an illusion.

          “I just wring my hand’s with worry about all the young 20-somethings that are taking their most productive years to hike trails and “contemplate life”.

          Stop worrying. It won’t change the course of life for the 20-somethings, and thus it is just a waste of your time.

          Every generator worries about the next because they’re living differently. Relax. It’s life. Live and let live. Your way is not the only “right way”.

        • John the Baptist the 2nd
          May 7, 2016, 4:54 pm

          Been on this planet 64+ years. When my first wife and I were young we spent considerable time living ‘the tiny life’. I never forgot the great number of elderly folk that encouraged us to enjoy our life while still young. Spent a lot of time around elderly camping folk. It was sad in that a great many couples, either one or both had relatively serious health issues to deal with, although they had saved some money, they did not have their health, and had waited till they were old to do as they wished. We were encouraged by many to not make the same mistake . I did not. One can work at their jobs, house, two car garage ,all the trappings, and take their 3-4 weeks vacation a year, save a bunch of money, and not have the health or opportunity of the adventures of living simply. I awaken with a song in my heart each day of my life, and have for decades. Walking hand in hand with our creator. And that my friends is priceless. I chose right.

        • Jackson Grey
          May 7, 2016, 7:16 pm

          I certainly share many of your sentiments, Cahow. I’ve not been to New Zealand but I believe that it is a subtropical climate, much like mine. As such, the summer temperatures in the otherwise homey and welcoming pop-up would become nearly unbearable. It might also be impossible, or nearly so, to park such a camper in many areas of the United States, unless you have land, neighbors who look the other way, family with available land or you’re willing to travel from campground to campground. None of these are viable solutions as far as i’m concerned. For the 20-something or even the 30-something, the gypsy life can be a good way to test out areas to potentially set roots. I myself was like that and despite the fact that in middle age, I have no family, some semblance of predictability reduces stress. YMMV of course and I still dream of living in a tiny house someday.
          Where you and I differ in opinion is the investment that a traditional house USED to be. My parents did well to invest in the 60’s in a home not far from NYC. They paid $22k and the house is upwards of half a million dollars now. That took the entire 30 years of paying their albeit small mortgage to realize appreciation. Housing appreciation now is less stable and part of that is a result of the improvements in transportation and migration that encourages more wanderlust in families. The house may or may not appreciate in value. It may or may not appreciate in value enough to qualify it as a true investment in one’s retirement. I also don’t think that a house NEEDS to be the main investment of any family. There are, as you mentioned, many other options that are less unpredictable (401k, etc.).
          I also don’t agree that hiking trails and “contemplating life” are unproductive. Many of the most successful people of our time have found significant value in taking time to disconnect and think intentionally. I have not one, but 3 uni degrees and none would have been achieved without my periodically removing myself from the world. I’m not certain success is a product of the amount of time you’ve spent working. My own success is a product of my ability to recognize the value of activities that hold no immediate financial value. That’s the best kind of investment, in my opinion.

      • Chel
        April 1, 2015, 7:40 am

        Hi Cahow and Ashley Jean. You both make great points. This is why I like coming to comments.
        I understand where you are coming from Cahow having children aged 24,22 and 14. The problem we find here in Britain is that the cost of university education set against the high unemployment rate for under 25’s and low pay makes the traditional route less viable. A degree no longer guarantees a job of some description. Land here is expensive too. Often as much as the cost of a small house.
        I encourage mine to do as much as they can at school to open as many doors as possible. Then I encourage them to find ways of using their time that will lead to self-employment or tolerable work. My older two have gone the alternative route to getting higher qualifications to avoid debt. This uses colleges with affiliate programmes on a part-time basis rather than full-time university. They also do some voluntary work.
        As time goes on their initiative should get them good jobs so that they can consider investing in material things rather than themselves. My eldest has a strong interest in small living spaces and both look at alternative lifestyles as neither wants to be saddled with a big mortgage and work they dislike.
        I feel that this approach to life has gained momentum due to the state of the world economy over the last decade. These young ones taking advantage of the good will of friends and relatives are learning skills which appear to have been lost in the generations between theirs and ours. Skills that the world is going to need more and more. I’d be as rich as Bill Gates if I had a dollar for every time someone questioned me doing/making something for myself instead of buying a convenient throwaway version.
        Just a few thoughts.
        Best regards. 🙂

  • Martha
    February 19, 2015, 4:26 pm

    I think Lily has done a beautiful job of making the pop-up camper into a permanent living space. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to do it up with appliances and all. There was no mention of bathroom facilities so does she have to go into the house to use the bathroom? Also, not being familiar with the weather in Aukland, I don’t know if I heard it right that she won’t stay in the camper through the winter? It wouldn’t be all that hard to heat the space unless the weather is arctic.

  • Lynnette
    February 19, 2015, 4:31 pm

    What a happy little story! However winter there can be very cold and where does she use the bathroom/shower??? Also would be afraid someone could break in too easily since it’s not a hard side vessel. But she looks so happy! Good for her 😉

  • Dee
    February 19, 2015, 4:49 pm

    Dear Lilly I just love your little caravan. Reminds me of a gypsy wagon, no disrespect to anyone. I love all the colors. I saw a tiny house that was full of all the colors and textures of the rainbow. Going tiny is a wonderful phenomenon. You go girl. Im really interested in the solar and its something im checking into.

  • Susan
    February 19, 2015, 4:59 pm

    She’s made a cute place of it. But what really amazed me is that I have the same little purple, blue and tan blanket that is on her bench! And she’s in Aukland, New Zealand. I guess that says something about globalization.

  • Bev
    February 19, 2015, 5:45 pm

    What a smart young woman. I was concerned for her safety at first, but seeing she is in the yard of friends, that is a better set-up. Hope she stays safe. Her little home is so pretty. She did a great job!

    • Steve in Micco
      March 22, 2017, 7:41 pm

      My thoughts also, as to her safety. My ex-wife is a Kiwi and insists that in many of the hinterland regions of NZ, when good people catch bad people doing bad things to good people, those bad people have a way of disappearing and the local constables have a way of not noticing the absence. Still, tenting thru life is not without its risks. We live in th nasty here and now ….not the sweet bye and …¡.cuidado!

  • Two Crows
    February 19, 2015, 6:38 pm

    Wow. That’s all, just wow. Is this woman creative or what?

    I’m hoping [once the work-intensive small home I just bought is done] to add something similar to this in the back yard. A shed/art studio as far as the city is concerned – but, in reality, a dwelling that I will, I hope, live in. Then I’ll save the primary house for an eventual live-in caregiver [I’m 67, gotta start thinking about such things.]

    After seeing this awe-inspiring article, I’m rethinking. Maybe I can park a pre-fab camper in my back yard and live in it? So long as I can tie it into the sewer line, it would work. And this IS Florida – lots of folks have campers parked in their back yards.
    I’ll just see what I can get away with – – – – –

  • Chuck
    February 19, 2015, 6:41 pm

    Lily , Good for you. I lived in a 22.5 ft Nomad travel trailer for two years, it’s not a bad way to go.Winter weather is gona be tough, get sheet foam insulation and put it in side the canvas and make it fit tight. Then make foam skirting.You should be snug as bug in a rug. You can bet it.

  • Karen R
    February 19, 2015, 6:51 pm

    So cute and creative! I couldn’t go without a bathroom, but we all have different wants and needs. I doubt she will live this way forever, but we all gotta do what we gotta do.

  • Comet
    February 19, 2015, 7:30 pm

    IF Lili is interested==or others–are interested there is a guy on PINTEREST who has made his pop up almost winter liveable–in the North. I don’t think he is actually living in it but he has LOTS of tips and hacks and info. I can’t remember his ID but he is pinned to my Pinterest Board CRAFTY SHIT (don’t ask; who knew Pinterest was gonna be so BIG??) to see it. He even built in a PERMANENT SHOWER in one of the under seat areas–amazing. There are also LOTS of others doing interesting things with campers and pop ups on there and also INSTRUCTABLES and DOITYOURSELFRV. And probably sites I have missed.

    • joyce b
      February 20, 2015, 12:16 am

      Camper: I can’t find the correct Pinterest site for your. Please help.

    • Sarah
      February 20, 2015, 11:13 am

      What is your Pinterest name so we can find the guy you mentioned?

  • Jim
    February 19, 2015, 9:42 pm

    Can’t do that in the U.S. It’s illegal. I’m envious! Maybe I should move to New Zealand! Thanks for the newsletter.

    • jo
      February 20, 2015, 5:50 pm

      What in particular is illegal?

  • Nita
    February 19, 2015, 10:09 pm


  • Rebecca
    February 19, 2015, 10:34 pm

    I love what she is doing. Watch out 1%… we may find we don’t need you.

  • Lisa E.
    February 19, 2015, 11:36 pm

    This is a lot of fun while you are young, and Lily has done a great job of providing many creature comforts. I do hope, though, that she will be wise and use this time to save as much money as possible to buy herself something more substantial for when she is older.

    Today’s fun can become tomorrow’s regrets. At the very least, she should buy land. She can either use it to build on when she’s ready, to park a THOW if that’s what she wants, or to sell it to cover unforeseen debts that none of us ever expect to have to deal with.

    Carefree doesn’t mean irresponsible towards ones future self and life. Life has a way of getting very complicated unless you’ve prepared for some of life’s shenanigans!

    • Christa
      February 22, 2015, 5:18 pm

      Amen, Lisa & Cahow!

  • Barb
    February 20, 2015, 8:20 am

    Guess she uses the homeowner’s toilet. I had a pop-up for camping and had to add a porta potty. The reason I upgraded to a Class C motorhome was security. You are basically in a tent on a platform. Not too safe for a single gal.

  • Don
    February 20, 2015, 12:05 pm

    This would be fun for a nice summer weekend. Long term it is nowhere near practical. The Tiny House movement is already slowing down due to the greed of a few over zealous whanna be entrepreneurs. The movement will go the way of the Frozen Yogurt fad. Tina houses were cool and practical when they could be obtained for $3000. to $5000. But now you can find people paying$60,ooo to over $150,000 for one. Defeats the whole purpose. I could write a book on comparable movements, but what’s the use. This would have been a worthwhile thing to do, particularly with the direction our government is driving us. However the greedy few are ruining it for the majority. Hello South America!

    • jo
      February 20, 2015, 5:44 pm

      Depends on what one’s purpose is. For me, the portability factor of a tiny home on wheels is huge, and worth the cost. And of course, nobody has to buy the more expensive ones. You could also purchase used. The tiny house movement is just getting started.

    • gar
      February 24, 2015, 4:35 pm

      “….. The Tiny House movement is already slowing down due to the greed of a few over zealous wanna be entrepreneurs…….”

      This is true, but nobody seems to offer any resistance. Just pay some of the profit laden prices being charged, even in low wage southern states.
      My daughter was involved as a lawyer helping people dealing with the misapplication of zoning rules and twisting of ancient regulations in California. But she became so irked at the overpricing and exploitation by builders there that she’s completely quit any involvement with the tiny house world.
      It’s become a product with a customer base among rich dentists and trust fund babies rather than the average person who was hoping for a mortgage free existence.

      • Cahow
        February 25, 2015, 1:43 pm

        I agree, in large part, with Don, jo, and Gar on many of your points.

        For some of the offered tiny/small homes, the Turn Key Price has gone into the $60K to $150K price range. But, L@@K at what those homes have to offer: INSULATION!!!!; full electric wiring; plumbing and indoor shower; full working kitchen; washer/dryer; plenty of storage; a MAIN FLOOR bedroom (meaning no loft or ladder for principle owner(s) ) and often an additional bedroom or multiple storage lofts. NOW…THAT is an investment, whether on wheels or a foundation and you can spend at least 20-30 years of your life comfortably living in that residence. Whether you’re On Grid or using alternative energy, you have a long range investment that only increases in worth.

        However, by degrees, what I’m witnessing with many a tiny house blog is the increased showcasing of un-insulated rental units from a booking service and ephemeral dwellings that ONLY work in the fairest of climates and inhabited (at times) by the youngest and most nimble of Millennials.

        If I were to have begun to visit tiny house blogs in the past 2 weeks, the impression that I would be left with is A) Tiny homes are ONLY meant to be honeymoon or get-away rentals in fair weather only; and B) Tiny shelters that have NO sustainability or long term use are now in vogue and are meant to be used in ONLY the warmest of warm weather climes…and situated on someone ELSE’S property, not even your own.

        WHERE are the tiny/small homes being showcased, built and lived in that A) are on property that the principle person OWNS outright so they aren’t required to state “I have always depended upon the kindness of stranger’s” and their benevolence? B) WHERE are the tiny/small homes that can be lived in NORTH of the Mason/Dixon Line, year ’round? I’m not talking about pop-up campers or coffins on wheels or experimental shelters built by a youth pastor and then abandoned to the whims of nature…I’m talking about serious 24/7, year-round HOMES of any square footage that allows a person/couple/family to live inside of it in 8 feet of snow, wind chills of -37 degrees, pounding thunderstorms and weeks of 90+ degree Summer days? THAT is the kind of conditions that half of the globe experiences; these shelters that are located in the most halcyon of environs where toilet and showering facilities are only available at a gym or the primary house are NOT going to engender the tiny house movement to the vast amount of humanity. I understand if these temporary shelters are put in place on land that you are actively building a more useful shelter in the next year or so but if there is no longer range goal than to “save money so you can travel”, well…get back to me after you’re done traveling and let me know how that worked out for you. Still have anywhere of your own to live in or is Couch Surfing part of your future?

        As an architect, I am hired to create long-lasting and enjoyable spaces for humans to live in and love. My longest lasting clients have been with me the entire 25 years of my firm; I have seen them age from 50 to 75 years of age. They are ALL living in the same home they bought 30-45 years ago and it has aged beautifully around them as a young couple, a full family with children and pets, the empty nest, and now their golden years. HOW many of these tiny homes can say the same…that you can transition through life in them for 30-45 years of your life?

        You want to talk about saving resources and being respectful of the planet? These homes are ALL well over 100+ years old, have only had 2-3 owners in those 100+ years and aren’t ending up in a landfill. The trees that provide the frame work gave up their lives in 1890; the clay that made the bricks was also mined in 1890. THAT is some sustainable resources and respect for the planet, to my mind.

        For the vast majority of people who’s curiosity is piqued by tiny/small house living, those tiny homes will ONLY come into actuality when they can provide 24 hours of living for at least 10 years of your life. If you can go from Cradle to Grave living in a small house, then your mission has been accomplished to Walk Lightly Upon the Earth.

        • Pat
          February 25, 2015, 5:19 pm


          I must continue to applaud your insightful contributions. You and I must be near the same age–my children range from 30 to 35–so I think our opinions are formed with a sense of longevity and experience. To the young readers, I always hated it when my parents said things like, “Just wait til you have lived a while.” Oh, how that irked me. But, I’ll be durned if they weren’t right.

          To address this article, Lily seems like a perfectly nice young lady who is enjoying her life. Yes, her little home seems quite creative and soul-freeing. I’m sure to many it seems wonderful to have a creative, lovely little spot to live, to work only for the current living expenses, and to report to no one but oneself. I’m glad she is enjoying herself. Lily is 22. 22, people!

          To young people, I must join Cahow and say that if you are fortunate, you WILL get old. You WILL need a place that protects you from all the elements (because the person who is allowing you to park in his/her yard may not always be there). You WILL need a bed that doesn’t require a ladder. Even if you remain nimble, multiple nighttime trips to the bathroom by navigating a ladder will become tiresome. One of my favorite bloggers injured her back, and while she is a mid-30s, active woman, she found that the ladder didn’t work with a back injury. Finally, you WILL need some means of paying for all those surprises that life tosses your way.

          Cahow offers so much practical information for young and older alike. I hope the readers will consider the points she makes.

          Cahow is so correct about the houses that have been around for 100 years as they continue to be kind to the planet. While the little pop-up camper is cute, it and its many similar friends will go to the landfill eventually.

          Cahow is correct about what some of the more expensive tiny houses offer–bathrooms, heat, a/c, washing machines. I grew up using an outhouse and slop jar (graphic, but true). My family drew water in buckets until I was 5 years old. We didn’t live in a third world country; it was the Southern US in the 50s. My mother washed clothes on a washboard; fortunately, I missed that adventure. I treasure all those memories, but let me tell you, that as a 60+ woman, I do NOT want to trek to the outhouse. I do NOT want to haul water. And I do NOT want to live without a clothes washer, hot water heater, or central heat and a/c. I CAN, but I don’t want to. 30 years ago, I would have said “awesome” to that idea in a heart beat. Not any more.

          Cahow is correct that we need to save and invest. I’ve recently sold my grandfather’s home (built by him and his dad in 1921 on family land) to cover my mother’s assisted living expenses; her home is on the market, too. I’m so grateful that she and Dad had some savings that she could use, and I’m incredibly grateful that they had invested in small, well-built homes when they were young so that the homes will now provide for my mother for the rest of her life, I hope.

          Cahow is also correct about arriving in the mid-30s and applying for a job with a resume filled with travel. As a human resources manager years ago, I looked for people who had spent their life either getting an education and/or establishing a solid work history. While I could certainly appreciate the free-spirits, I couldn’t offer them jobs. That’s just the way the world works, folks.

          And perhaps, if young folks don’t think ahead, work, save, and invest, they may be relying on those 1%s way more than they had ever dreamed. That’s also how the world works.

          I encourage people to listen to Cahow. She made her career in the home industry and brings wisdom to the conversation. She is offering wisdom for a lifetime.

        • Cahow
          February 25, 2015, 5:47 pm

          Pat: I know for a fact, that if I were to meet you in real life, we’d be the BEST of Friends. 😀 Thank you for your validation. When I read so many comments from people encouraging ‘escapism’, I want to cry. Then, later in the comments, I will read gut-wrenching posts from seniors who write, “I’m a senior, on disability, and with slight handicaps. I dream of owning a tiny home and my own land but unless I receive financial help, I won’t be able to achieve it.” Somehow, I’m wondering if 1/2 of those seniors were the Escape Artists in their youth, who partied, bought loads of stuff, and then 60 came around and bit them in their arse?

          Your upbringing and mine are identical. My grandparent’s adopted me and their dairy farm was on the Canandian border. While millions of Baby Boomer’s were eating TV dinners and watching Lassie, I was pumping water throughout the day for my gran, hauling in wood to heat the main floor, helping her can, and trying to help my Granpa hand-milk 60 head of cattle. How I got through those times were because of my intense love for my grandparent’s and also devouring every Laura Ingall’s Wilder books, pretending that I was Laura. And yes, my gran washed clothes with a scrub board and big metal wash basin; boiled water on the wood stove.

          Did my grandparent’s WANT to live off the grid? HELL NO! But, no utility company would run lines up that far North because the population was so scattered; it simply wasn’t cost effective. When they finally were ready to sell the farm in the late ’60’s, the utility companies had finally arrived…because of ski resorts and vacation homes coming into our area.

          And your point about “(because the person who is allowing you to park in his/her yard may not always be there) is spot on! All it takes is that person selling their land and your flat outta luck.

          Because I’m so intimately involved with my client’s, I’m privy to a vast world of humanity much larger than the average person. Yes, you may work in an office with 40 people but how many of their HOMES do you go into on a daily basis? I’ve seen fit and vibrant 50 year old client’s slowly develop Parkinson’s Disease so severe that I need to turn their main floor living room into a bedroom. I’ve seen incredibly fit client’s take a tumble down their stairs, break their hip and now I have to install a stair elevator into their home and handicap rails in each bathroom. I had an 80 year old client who biked China on her 80th birthday…and four years later had developed Alzheimer’s SO severe, she set her home on fire by accident and it burnt to the ground.

          If we’re lucky and blessed, our reward for a life well lived is becoming OLD. But along with old comes a breakdown of our body and mind. We only have so much Youth…it’s like a gallon of milk. At first, you drink glasses of it with abandon because Hey!, it’s a GALLON! Then, you go to grab the milk one night and discover you don’t have enough to coat the bottom of a glass. 🙁

          Don’t waste your Milk of Life! Plan accordingly, because even the most prudent of us will eventually run “out of milk”.

          Blessings sent to you, Pat. You are a light in the darkness.

  • alice h
    February 23, 2015, 11:49 am

    Sounds like she has her situation pretty well figured out and is doing something that works for now as well as keeping her options open. From what I’ve read it seems Auckland doesn’t freeze in winter but it will definitely be damp. Being under canvas in the damp can be unpleasant but not impossible if you have a decent heater. I wonder about mice and other critters though. Maybe she’s been adopted by a local cat?

  • February 25, 2015, 7:03 pm

    Oh my ….such ridiculously DEEP talk over an adorable girl decorating her pop~up…what makes anyone think she doesn’t have a clue about how to handle her future! She is 22 yrs old.
    We as humans have NO idea if we even have a ‘future’ with the terrorism growing at a hideous rate daily. I am 67 and my 83yr old husband just went to Heaven after a masterful battle with cancer. I have been a flight attendant all my life and love ‘tiny’ places…I feel most ‘at home’ on planes. I actually like the smell of aircraft fuel…..if one can get by with not breaking ones back…then good for you! I loved ‘hard’ work NOT BACK BREAKING labor. And I am the 1% for whatever that REALLY means! I am very conservative economically and politically yet not, socially. I live tiny by choice and maybe ‘need’ too……as I am warmed by my abode and the small coziness it provides me and my dogs and 1 rotten cat. Great job kiwi woman.

    • Pat
      February 25, 2015, 10:42 pm

      Hello, [email protected].

      Yes, ma’am. The talk did become deep. I’ve been following the tiny house movement since Jay Shafer published his first little booklet of house plans (maybe 2002?). Like you, I love tiny houses because I was raised in a tiny house. My parents built that small home when they could afford it and paid it off in 10 years. They added bells and whistles as they could afford them (a/c, washing machine, dryer), and it was a solid little home. They worked every day and tried to save a little for the future, taking reasonable vacations (drive to the coast for several days or take a trip to the mountains for the day); they were very blue collar.
      Cahow struck a cord with me in her early post when she said she was concerned about young people using their youth to travel and get by, with little investment for the future. I’ve been concerned about that, too, for a while now. When I’ve heard so many people over the years swooning over the fragile little homes or even the nicer ones that lack basic systems for the future, I’ve become concerned that in their effort to be free spirits and enjoy life, no one has said to them, “That’s great, but don’t forget about the future–when transporting water and climbing ladders isn’t easy or a reality.”
      I have adored Jay Shafer’s houses (since he started Tumbleweed Tiny Houses around 2001 or so) and loved Dee William’s book The Big Tiny and her story. I all but begged my husband to build one of those houses 10 years ago, when I was a much more flexible 52. Fortunately, he passively, sweetly ignored me. As the stories have rolled out on excellent sites like this one, I began to wonder about those very tiny showers, the loft only beds, the saw dust toilets — I wondered how those folks would do if they lived in those homes for the rest of their lives. And I’m now beginning to see some of those folks already having to make changes–move into places a bit larger with good mechanical systems and bedrooms on the main floor.
      I admire the young people for taking some time to enjoy life; I just hope that they hear Cahow whispering important information in their ears so that they are realistic about the future and are prepared for it.
      It sounds like you have had and do have a wonderful life, and I’m truly glad. Please accept my condolences for the loss of your dear husband. I agree, too, that we don’t know what the future holds with all the insanity in the world, but I want to do what I can to be prepared realistically for as much as I can and continue to encourage that outlook in my grown children.
      I’m glad Alex posted about Lily. I think the post has brought about some unusual and needed conversation. And I wish her all the best.

    • Jaye
      May 7, 2016, 5:42 pm

      Well said, carrieflygirl.

      These people are writing EXTREMELY LENGTHY critical essays full of opinions and judgments regarding what the young should and should not do (I’m 56, so not a Millenial) when they could be out enjoying life. Too much time on their hands, if you ask me.

      They should have traveled and lived more fully when they were young, perhaps. Now they’re just sitting at home with their savings yapping about how everyone else should be living like they are.

      No, thank you.

  • Forest
    March 31, 2015, 2:16 pm

    On the far left, is that a gas cooktop directly under those curtains? If so, I’ll yell “Fire!” in advance, because it IS going to happen.

  • Aloszko
    April 1, 2015, 4:42 pm

    Dear Cahow, Tattler would not have a headline like the one you mention. Apart from that, your observations-which have something of the Country Life about them-are spot on.

  • April 1, 2015, 11:49 pm

    Like and Love.

  • chris
    April 2, 2015, 10:32 am

    this may work where it stays warm all year but not in MN 🙂

    • Cahow
      April 2, 2015, 11:43 am

      Hi, chris. Being a Minnesota Native, myself, (Roseau & Anoka), I know of what you speak!

      I follow this blog because it’s highly interesting and fun; we live in a small house (800 sq.ft) so the entries don’t have an impact on any choices we need to make.

      But, I’d become mightily discouraged if I lived in Minnesota, The Dakotas or ANYWHERE ELSE where bitter cold and snow was the norm, and was expecting helpful tiny homes that allowed you to weather the storms. In truth, HOW much of the population lives in Shangri-La-like settings where the temperatures are ALWAYS in the +80’s, no mosquitoes, and very little rain?

      I’d LOVE if there were more tiny homes featured with 4′ tall snow banks against them and the outside temps -30 degrees, with the 24/7/365 resident snugly tucked inside. 😀

  • Canyon Man
    May 7, 2016, 4:55 pm

    I agree that there are many places in America one cannot do this sort of living. But there are some places where it is not illegal and other places where you simply do it and no one will say a word.
    I have known people who did this sort of thing inside of a town and were fine. they did not make a nuisance of themselves to the neighbors so no one contacted the so called authorities. I will not name the towns I know allow this. Do some research. I know out west things are more free, at least until more people move into the area and try to bring their nonsense with them.

  • David Remus
    May 13, 2016, 1:24 pm

    Ms Kemp, you rock! Your creative years are off to a good start.

    Lotta rain on the parade today, lotta rain.

  • Marsha Cowan
    March 22, 2017, 7:59 pm

    . . .adorable, and clever. Have happy, “freak-bike-accident” free future!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 23, 2017, 9:13 am


  • Janie Farner
    March 22, 2017, 10:05 pm

    OK — For me, the “deal breaker” on some of these stories is the [lack of] bathroom. As near as I can tell, she doesn’t have one and I’m always reading about people who use the gym or local establishments and I just cannot picture living that way. To those who do, I admire your tenacity, but for me, there HAS TO BE A TOILET at the very least………!!! I cannot imagine waking up at 2 a.m. and having to drive to McDonalds while holding my legs together……….!!!

    • comet
      March 23, 2017, 12:43 am

      LOL! I read this post when it first came out and have been reading about tiny houses seemingly forever. I donpt think they are terribly practicle FOR ME; but I like the IDEA of them. We just retired and altho we have been talking of either doing a THOW or an RV (an older one we would gut and rebuild) it’s looking like that eoither will happen maybe down the road or–who knows! Physical limitations on my part–handicapped–mean that MOST of the TH’s and RV’s we have seen would be–hard–for me to use. Sigh! However we have Plan B—buy a small house somewhere WARM—I cannot do snow and cold any more and being in Quebec City last week when it was -35 C and WINDY only made that more apparent!

      One of the things that made it clear to us that these plans might not work were things like-bathrooms. . Yes–if you build–something–you CAN outfit it the way YOU want-but–how much space are you going to allocate so a handicapped person can shower? IF you need–or might need in the future–a KneeWalker or wheelchair or even crutches—how much room do you NEED to have for those” Most RV’s only have SO MUCH room for a bed–if I need to use a Knee Walker to get TO the bathroom–HOW do I DO that? And just getting IN and OUT–the RV people try to sell to an older market–allegedly we have the money!–but–they seem incapable of building STEPS that we older folk can USE. Why would I spend the kind of money they get on a NEW one and NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE STEPS?

      Now our plans are looking like this–an enclosed trailer for our motorcycle–yes; I ride with the folding Travel Walker strapped to the tail bag!–and a mini van or Transit to pull it. Remove the rear seats of a van; add an elementary emergency camping and cook set up and our “stuff”–we have contemplated adding fold up beds in a trailer; this might be a good idea! Our “camping days” are most likely over; much as we loved it back in the day. We are fans of roadside hotels and we are lucky if we are careful we can afford to do this.

      But-!==In a nod to people who posted on here when this was a new thread–we CAN afford to BECAUSE we saved and paid cash for houses and cars and put money away that we really COULD have used for other things but we made do. We fixed up our first house–where I had to haul water and heat with wood and deal with seemingly endless frozen pipes and appliances; live in one room all winter in Upstate New York during some COLD winters; it was a great big old drafy house and we sold it the first hour we listed it sight unseen and paid cash for this much smaller one. We have been able to arrange for a relative to stay in a house we own so she does not need nursing home care and when she dies the tenancy of that house comes back to us.

      Was this–easy? Hell no. Did our kids love living in a small house? Well–no; but one of them came back here to live and brought a husband and two kids to live WITH us! Now we are ALL ready to move! Our youngest went to college at age 16 and by 24 had a house; a fab job and a wife and dog–and his college loans for Engineering School are PAID IN FULL. I guess he paid attention after all!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      March 23, 2017, 9:12 am

      Haha we grew up camping and would have to go use the bathhouses. I agree it’s not as fun for full time living!

  • Gail
    March 23, 2017, 11:12 am

    Yes I agree. This is not great for permanent living and one would freeze living in that in Canada with our severe winters.
    It is cute but here in Canada would only be good for about 3 months of the year.

  • Otessa Regina Compton
    January 28, 2018, 3:48 pm


  • Kurt
    February 4, 2018, 9:29 pm

    Toilet…she rents space on a plot of property, so perhaps she has arrangements to use the landowner’s toilet. There are also portable toilets, 5-gal buckets…

    For those wondering about a shower, again, maybe she has arrangements to use the landowner’s shower. Here are other techniques to stay clean as a mobile/tiny dweller…

  • jacoso
    February 10, 2023, 5:39 pm

    How does she live in that thing? Popup campers are very impractical for longer vacations, let alone full time living!

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