Wondering if the tiny life is for you? Here’s how to join the tiny house movement and simplify your life.
Imagine living in a home with just a single small room or two. You’d parse your belongings down to what really mattered. You’d no longer feel weighed down by the stress and turmoil that comes with clutter. While you may balk at the idea of living in a tiny house initially, the idea of living with less can also be quite appealing. (Hello, no more multiple bathrooms to clean or rooms to clean up!).
This desire for simplicity is why so many people have joined the tiny house movement.
Chances are you’ve seen tiny houses on TV or read about them online. You may wonder, who are these tiny house dwellers? Are they survivalists? Isolationists?
Tiny house enthusiasts are actually normal people like you and me. They’ve simply decided to minimize their clutter, simplify their schedule, and learn to live with less. In this age of constant busyness and stress, living the tiny life has become the right answer for many people.
What Does It Mean to Live in a Tiny House?
So, what exactly defines the tiny house movement? Do you need to own your house? What about a small apartment? Is any small space considered a tiny home? What about alternatives like trailer homes, cottages, or RV living?
Tiny homes have existed out of necessity since, well, the beginning of time. If you had to build your own log cabin or stone cottage from scratch, chances are high it would have been a tiny house. Throughout the last century, houses got bigger and bigger as people became less transient, more settled, and wanted to live closer to urban centers.
Toward the end of the century, in the late 90s, people started to become drawn once again to simple living, small spaces, and the idea of living with less. In contrast to the high levels of consumerism that ruled the 1950s-1980s, people started to return to ideas like living off the land, building a small home, and simplifying.
Since then, the tiny house industry has grown in size and appeal. A myriad of popular television shows are dedicated to the concept of tiny living and the tiny house movement. There are also websites, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, and more surrounding this concept of the tiny life.
So how do you join the tiny house movement? The short answer is buying or building a tiny home (most tiny homes fall between 85-400 square feet).
The longer answer is you can apply the philosophy of the tiny house movement to many areas of your life, no matter what size your home is. The tiny house movement is built around the concept of living simple, decluttered lives.
The Philosophy of The Tiny House Movement
The idea of living in a tiny house stems from minimalism, homesteading, and learning self-sufficiency. The very nature of a tiny home dictates you live with less. After all, you can’t have an open pantry or a walk-in closet when your entire house is the size of a pantry or a closet.
A tiny house forces you to focus on what really matters. What items have a purpose in your life? What items bring you happiness? Do the items you own serve you? Then get rid of the rest.
You don’t need a small space to live the tiny life, but as you embrace the philosophy of the tiny house movement, you’ll likely discover you need less and less room. The more you narrow down your belongings and focus on what brings you joy, the smaller your footprint becomes.
Our Tiny House Experience: The Good, The Bad, And… The Challenging
My husband, son, and I decided to give the tiny house movement a shot. Last summer, we rented a tiny house off the coast of France. It was gorgeous, surrounded by nature…and very, very small.
The experience was very positive for us. We learned quite a few lessons from living in a tiny house. It made us both more organized, more intentional with our time, and better at simplifying.
There were definitely a few aspects of the tiny house movement that resonated with us and appealed to our nature. We loved spending time outdoors. We loved simplifying our belongings and focusing on what was truly important to us both.
There were other aspects of living in a tiny home that were challenging, especially with a child. It’s hard to find alone time or space to think when you’re in a tiny house. If the weather is dreary and no one can go outdoors, the quarters become a little too close.
As someone who really values my personal space and time to myself, I must admit I found this was the most challenging aspect of the tiny house movement for me. I didn’t have my own space to decompress.
Overall, we certainly learned some great lessons from our tiny house experience, and we would do it again. This time, there are a few tips I would embrace for my time in a tiny home.
How to Join the Tiny House Movement (Without Getting Overwhelmed)
1. Consider the needs of your family.
If you’re planning to join the tiny house movement, it’s very important to plan with the needs of every family member in mind.
Because my son is small, it was easy to make the tiny space work for us, but I see how a growing family could quickly outgrow their tiny home.
It’s also important to consider the space needs of your family members. Does anyone enjoy an important hobby requiring space? How will you work around it? For example, if your child plays an instrument, is there an option to make it work in your tiny house?
Research all the tiny house resources you find. As you plan, consider how you will make your day-to-day life work in a small space.
Some great tiny house resources to get you started are:
- 6 Tiny House Resources That Will Help You Downsize
- Tiny House Helpful Resources
- Tiny House Knowledge Base
- Resources for Tiny House and Travel Enthusiasts
2. Try it out before you commit.
Before you commit to the idea of joining the tiny house movement, try it out first. My husband and I learned so much from our tiny house stay. You may realize a small space doesn’t work with your family, or you may realize you could get by with even less room.
You’ll never know how comfortable you are in a tiny home until you give it a shot. Fortunately, there are tiny homes available for rent or purchase everywhere.
Wondering how to find a tiny house? Check out these tiny house listings:
- Here are real estate listings for tiny houses in the United States.
- Check Airbnb for a vacation rental.
- Glamping Hub lists tiny houses for rent.
- Check Tiny House Listings for sales and rentals.
3. Apply the “tiny life principles” to your life now.
Even if you’re not quite ready to fully join the tiny house movement, there are many concepts you can embrace to help you live a simple, purposeful life (no matter the size of your home).
Learn to shop like a tiny house dweller. Before you buy, consider whether or not the item is useful, necessary, and quality. Only purchase what you need (rather than impulse buying what you want). Adopt a one-in-one-out policy for each purchase.
Consider how to simplify your life in other ways too. What could you get rid of? Are there ways you could better organize tasks like food preparation, so you don’t need to stock too many extra ingredients and tools on hand? Having a meal plan, for example, will really help you cut back on time in the kitchen.
4. Start minimalist living.
The tiny house movement is focused on minimalist living. This minimalist philosophy applies not only to your purchases, but your mindset and actions.
Minimalist living means cutting out the clutter on your schedule. It means taking care of yourself and focusing on caring for the items you truly own (your body, your brain, your relationships). Minimalism is cutting out the extra stuff that weighs you down and focusing instead on what really matters.
A tiny home lends itself to minimalist living because when you have a small space, it’s hard to fill it with “extra” stuff. But even in a regular-sized home, you can apply the same concepts.
Think about what really matters in your life. What do you spend time doing that really nurtures you, feeds your soul, and helps you find purpose?
When you’re focused on what matters, almost like magic, you find more time to appreciate the good in your life. You find more energy for yourself and others. You find freedom because you’re not weighed down by things you don’t need.
5. Organize your home.
From a practical perspective, one of the best ways to embrace the ideas of the tiny house movement is to get organized. Clean out your home as though you had less space.
If you were moving to a tiny house, what would matter? What could you do without?
Take the time to declutter and clean out all those closets, bookshelves, boxes, and storage spots. Consider cutting back on paper clutter and all the other items you don’t need. If an item no longer serves a purpose for you, give it a new life elsewhere.
You don’t need to throw everything away, either. Sell items on consignment, list them in online market and trading spaces (like Craigslist, eBay, and local boards). You may be surprised at the extra cash you can earn as you declutter.
Donate or give away the items you can’t sell. As you declutter and clean out your home you may find you’re ready for a smaller space. You may even realize you’re ready to join the tiny house movement!
6. Plan for your emotional needs.
One area I wasn’t fully prepared for when we lived in a tiny house was the emotional impact. I found it difficult to get alone time. When my husband or son wanted to watch TV, read a book, or play a game, we all did it together.
While this togetherness was wonderful, it was also a little challenging for someone who really appreciates having my own space. I had to plan for my emotional needs in other ways.
I took a lot of hikes and bike rides. My husband and I would trade off time at home and childcare duties, so we could each have our own space occasionally. I also practiced plenty of self-care and mindfulness so I could fully enjoy the moments where I could recharge my batteries.
Living in a tiny home isn’t difficult. In fact, there are so many benefits and positives that far outweigh the challenges. It’s important, however, especially if you’re living with others, to find time for yourself. We all need space and I found my husband and I got along better and were happier when we were able to incorporate “me time” in our schedules.
If you’re ready to embrace the tiny house movement, I highly recommend it. Trying the tiny life taught me many lessons. You can apply these lessons to your life today (even if your house is bigger than 400 square feet). You may find as time goes on, you’re ready to live in a smaller and smaller home!