With home prices high and downsizing on the upswing, a growing number of Americans are pondering what it might be like to live in a tiny house.
And when we say “tiny house,” we mean it! The typical U.S. home measures 2,600 square feet, but these mini abodes clock in at anywhere from 100 to 500 square feet.
While that might seemed cramped, one recent survey found that 56% of Americans would consider living in a tiny home. So why would they do that?
For one, money plays a major role: The average cost of a tiny house runs about $23,000, while the median price for conventional homes is $375,000. As a result, 68% of tiny-house dwellers own their home outright, with no mortgage.
Plus, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University estimated that by downsizing the footprint of a house, overall living costs drop by 36%.
But affordability isn’t the only factor. Many aim to have a more sustainable lifestyle with a smaller carbon footprint, while others simply crave less upkeep around the house.
“Life is so much more peaceful in a tiny home,” says Macy Miller, who downsized from a 2,400-square-foot house to a 232-square-feet abode in Boise, ID, that she now shares with her partner, two young children, and a Great Dane. (Yes, you read that right.) “Instead of cleaning and caretaking, I have time to be present with my family.”
It might sound dreamy, but how can you gauge if seriously scaling back and squishing yourself into a tiny house is right for you? Luckily, it’s a leap of faith you can take in baby steps by trying out a few of these tactics below.
Talk to a tiny-house consultant/coach
There are actually experts who can coach you through transitioning to tiny living.
For instance, Tiny House Teacher has a questionnaire to help you decide if tiny living is right for you, and charges $249 to develop a personalized action plan to make it happen. Tiny Life Consulting offers a wealth of resources on different types of tiny homes, the pros and cons of a tiny house versus an RV, and even how the reality of tiny living differs from what you might see on TV.
While hiring a consultant or coach might seem like overkill, it’s really not when you consider just how big a life change this would be.
“Downsizing requires thinking through your relationship with stuff, money, your community, and the environment,” counsels Vina Lustado, a tiny-house consultant and builder of tiny houses in Ojai, CA.
A consultant will ask the many logistical questions you might not think to consider. Some examples: Do you need this to function as a full-time dwelling or a weekend escape? Will you be there just until your newborn reaches school age or until your baby graduates from high school? Will you need a Zoom-ready spot if your family members are working from home?
“Is your tiny house going to be your forever house? That’s something to consider,” says Lustado. “And it’s OK if it’s not.”
In fact, Brian Hawkins, founder and CEO of Tiny House Movement, says three years is about the average time spent in a tiny house. So don’t presume that once you go small, you can never go back.
Try a tiny-house workshop
Many people start exploring a tiny-house lifestyle in a mood-board, Pinterest kind of way. But tiny-house workshops can help you delve into the nitty-gritty.
Tiny Home Builders offers workshops, both virtual ($100) and in-person in various parts of the country ($400), that show you what it takes to build and then live in a tiny house.
Workshops can be illuminating since, with a tiny house, there’s so much you can’t take for granted. For instance, you can’t just plunk down a tiny house anywhere, so you’ll want to know what zoning laws you should consider, as well as your options for getting water and power.
“Thinking these things through will help you understand what you’re getting into, and what sort of tiny-house dweller you’ll be,” explains Vera Struck, a tiny-house consultant and sustainability educator who offers workshops in Newbury, MA.
Book a stay at a tiny-house hotel
Of course, the best way to determine if you could handle small-space living is to try it out. Tour a tiny house—or better yet, book a stay in one. Tiny-house short-term rentals are popping up everywhere, from the Caravan (which claims to be the world’s first tiny-house hotel with six units clustered around a leafy courtyard) in Portland, OR, to Boston’s Getaway. There’s also increasing availability of tiny houses on Airbnb.
Whichever lodging you might opt for, you’ll see what it’s like to hang out in the evenings in a dollhouse-sized home. You’ll also be able to gauge how the “make coffee and shower” morning routine plays out.
“Some people come to us to unplug and have a true break from their routine, ” says Jon Staff, founder of Getaway. “But others come to us as part of their decision-making process.”
In fact, Staff says, among the couples who stay at his wee houses, he often sees one spouse trying to get the other to warm up to a deep downsizing.
“We estimate that 25% to 50% of our guests stay with us specifically to test out what it’s like to live in a tiny house,” adds Kol Peterson, co-founder of Caravan.
Ultimately, tiny-house living has less to do with the size of your house and more to do with seeking simplicity in life.
“It’s not about going as small as possible,” says Zack Giffin, a tiny-house builder and host of the show “Tiny House Nation.” “It’s about counteracting the notion that the American dream means constantly sizing up and wanting more. And it’s about appropriate-sized living, which might not sound sexy, but is totally realistic and doable.”