Tiny House Living Teaches You Valuable Life Lessons

For the past two weeks we’ve been house-sitting a tiny house (and dog) for a good friend. This experience has taught us a lot about tiny homes in general, but more importantly, taught us a few important life-lessons as well.

Living in a tiny house helps you focus on what matters.
I can see now why tiny living is so attractive to people. Tiny living is a way to simplify your life and focus on the decisions and things that really matter. For example, if you are wondering whether or not you should buy something while living in a tiny home, you just ask yourself a few simple questions, “will it fit inside the house?” “Is it functional?” “Is it necessary?”

These are questions that many people forget or don’t ever think about when making any purchase. This process helps you focus on what you really need.  What i’ve discovered after living in a tiny home is that we probably don’t need as many things (or space) as I thought I would to be happy and comfortable.

Tiny homes make you actually use the stuff you have.
If you decide to live in a tiny house you have make some tough choices because you can’t fit everything and anything you want. You have to be selective and strategic. Hopefully you would bring things that you need, things that you would actually use on daily basis. Tiny homes force you to think this way. Most things – if not everything – in the tiny home has a place and purpose. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth having. Problem solved.

Tiny homes make you clean/deal with your stuff.
Well, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. However, imagine you need to make lunch but you don’t have any space because you forgot about dishes from breakfast (and there’s no dishwasher to hide or wash dishes later). Plus, if you don’t wash those dishes, you may not have many extra dishes to use in your small cupboards. Living in a tiny house, you do realize the importance of doing things sooner rather than later.

Your stuff has no space to hide and so you either deal with it or deal with the consequences of it. I learned this the hard way.

valuable counter space would not exist unless you clean up after yourself often
valuable counter space does not exist unless you clean up after yourself

Tiny homes make you aware of how much water you use daily.
The tiny house we are staying in gets water from a hose. Waste water from the sink and the shower collect in a plastic bin that needs to be dumped out whenever it gets full. This is an excellent system to measure how much water you use on a daily basis.

Knowing that the plastic bin we are using to collect water is about the size of a file cabinet drawer, I have cut down my shower time to prevent water from overflowing. Even though I already tried to make a change in my showering habits, I overfilled the container the first couple of times. I also overflowed the container the first couple of times I tried washing the dishes. In other words, I didn’t even realize how much water I was using. Now, I’m not using more water than I actually need.

Because we use environmentally safe soap for our showers and dishes, we can dump the container of water into the yard to dispose of it. I estimate that we typically do this 3-5 times a day. Again, this is being conscious of our water usage and without having a flushing toilet. Imagine how much water we’d be using if we were in a regular house.

Speaking of toilets….

Tiny homes make you deal with your sh!t! What?
Unless your tiny home is connected to sewage, there is a good chance that you will have to manage your own human waste. For many of us living in a developed country, we never think about our waste. We literally flush it down some magical pipe and never think about where it goes or what happens to it.

In this tiny home, we use a bucket, plastic bags, and wood chips. Additionally there is a wooden box, toilet seat, and seat cover – but that’s it. No flushing water. No heated toilet seat like we had in Japan. Once the bags are full, we tie it up and throw it out with the rest of the trash.

The rap group Outkast said it best, “I know you like to think your sh!t don’t stink, but lean a little bit closer and see the roses really smell like poo, poo, poo.” Yup. And that’s a good thing to be aware of and to learn how to deal with it. Let’s face it: everyone poops. So why do we get so freaked out about it?

(Note: The pine wood chips and air fresheners really help so that your tiny home does not smell, in case you were wondering.)

Tiny homes force people to become better communicators *Bonus for living with another person in a tiny home*
If you want to grow in being better at relationships, live in a tight space with someone. Hopefully if you live in a tiny home with someone it was by choice and that you wanted to grow and learn with that person. Hopefully you like that person. There’s nowhere to hide in a tiny house. Amazingly, you can achieve somewhat of a separation of space (i.e. be in the loft while someone works at the desk below) and some sense of privacy, but compared to a typical-sized home there’s obviously no comparison.

You are forced to learn how to communicate better. “Can you pass me this?” “Excuse me.” “Hi. I guess we are talking because we see a lot of each other.”

Simply-Itentional- Tiny-House-Living-Experience-04
living and working in closer quarters = relationship building

I think tiny house living is a great option. It’s another perspective. A different way to live life.

You might think that tiny homes are for single people or couples without children but there are families living in tiny homes with young and older children. I was reminded by Michelle’s mom that Michelle’s aunt and uncle raised their two boys in an apartment that was around 500 sq. ft.. And of course, many people in Europe and around the world live in smaller homes.

You might read some of the things above and think, “it sounds challenging.” and it is,  but in a good way. It’s also a lot of fun and satisfying.

Let’s not forget that tiny houses are not just the ones on wheels. The average sq. footage for an average American home is 2600 sq. ft.!! We are currently living in 112 sq. ft. and our dream house is about 900 sq. ft. or less.

I know it’s not the right fit for everyone, but it does make wonder why we don’t challenge how we live. In our troubled world we need to find ways of living that is more sustainable and less wasteful.

Homes don’t have to be so big.

Living in a smaller space has helped us develop an awareness and skills that can help us have a more fulfilled life. It forces you to declutter and let go of things you don’t need and start to focus and hone in on the things that really matter. You live with more intentionality and appreciation, which are two things that conventional living is great at devaluing.  You start to appreciate that life isn’t about what is easy, but about what makes you more alive.

Tiny homes help people relearn what it means to live.

Could you live in a tiny home? Have you thought about downsizing? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Tiny House Living Teaches You Valuable Life Lessons

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  1. My husband grew up in a house that was 622 SF- along with his three siblings (they were all born within the same five years) and parents. Six humans in 622 square feet. Now my sister-in-law, her husband, and their two kids live in that small house. The only real downside I see is sleeping. It’s a one bedroom home and they all sleep in the same space. A colicky baby (she’s now 8 months old so the screaming has stopped, but she still wakes up 3-5 times per night though she should be sleeping through the night), a 2.5 year old with occasional night terrors, and two restless parents = no one sleeps through the night. Ever. It’s wearing on the kids and it’s wearing on the parents, but they are making it work. We recently babysat the 8-month old overnight and they warned us that she’ll wake up five times. We put her in her own room and she slept for 12 hours straight. She needed the rest- and she napped like the champ the next day too. No one was around to disturb her sleep. The 2.5 year old was at the other sister’s house and he slept for nearly 10 hours straight- a record for him too. You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep and small living quarters will/could infringe upon that. But, it’s different for kids than it is for adults, and you never know what will work and won’t work.

    My husband and I bought a 1400 SF home a year ago and everyone in his family thinks it’s a palace. 🙂 We’re about to gain a new roommate in less than a month, so I’m glad we’ve got some wiggle room and space, but I know we don’t need that much space. We never use the basement, except for company. Also, with my husband’s firefighting job, it’s nice that we have a separate space for him to sleep during the day if he’s coming off a rough 24-hour shift. It’s probably not necessary, but it’s a definite and appreciated luxury.

    The most interesting portion of this post for me was the awareness of water usage. We liberally run laundry (my husband has a lot from work to keep his uniforms clean and non-smokey) and I love having a dishwasher. With being pregnant, I make a thousand trips to the bathroom each day (and night) and my showers have turned into a form of relaxation and relief from all-over body aches and pains. We’ve also got a large yard, which is in the throes of landscaping, so there’s water running out there too. We try to conserve where we can, but I know we could do more. Thanks for the added awareness!

    And- some food for thought. The tiny house trend has been buzzing for a while. From your perspective, why are people willing and wanting to jump on this trend but they stay away from trailer homes/trailer parks- the original “tiny and mobile house”? Most trailers aren’t built with the same green intention, but could be. I think it’s an interesting glimpse into class, appearance, intention, marketing, and perception. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Mrs. Fitzcash! – First of all thanks for this comment. We loved hearing from you. I think tiny house living is a viable option for folk and I think it does make a difference where you are at in life. I think we are in love with it at the moment because we don’t have children or need the extra space but could see where that’s valuable for many families. I also think in general, housing is not built in such a way for what is needed for, but with the mindset that “bigger is better”. At least that’s what I gather from a typical American perspective.

      In regards to your question about trailers, just so we are clear, I’m going to assume you meant bigger trailer homes/trailer parks, and not camper trailers. I think the difference in the two have to deal with size and customization. I think trailer homes are actually too big. Yes they are on wheels. Yes they can be moved. But they are designed to be like typical homes. The smallest one I could find on this website was 960 sq. ft. (http://www.solitairehomes.com/models/single-wide/floorplans.aspx). These homes aren’t built to consolidate space. They run into the same problems that typical homes regarding utilities, heating and cooling, sewage, etc.. because of their size.

      The draw for many (and us) to tiny homes is the small customizable foot print. Studies have shown that the biggest environmental impact we can have regarding our homes (more than clean energy, conserving water, etc…) is reducing the size of our homes (http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/sw/wasteprevention/phase02findings.htm). Regardless if we had the most state of the art insulation, materials, etc… having a larger home requires more energy and has a bigger impact than a tiny home made with crappy materials. Just the footprint alone. I was unaware of this till recently.

      Add in the fact that you can build and customize one of these homes for less than $30,000 and you’ve got some great reasons why many people are going tiny.

      There’s a good chance we’ll start in a tiny home, but I don’t envision that we will live the rest of our lives in one. We’ll probably go bigger, but definitely not the 2,600 sq. ft. route. Tiny homes are a great viable housing option depending where someone is at in their life. It’s definitely not the definitive answer to housing or environmental options, but it can definitely help.

  2. My boyfriend and I have been looking into building a tiny house for a while as well. It is interesting how it is quite the trend now in the west, but you’re right – people around the world have been living in tiny houses already! When I was in Mongolia, I stayed with a family of six who all lived in one ger. There is absolutely not privacy, just one big room. Still, the family was incredible and so loving. Everyone, including the five-year-old, had their own duties from preparing meals to fetching the cows.

    We love the idea of having a tiny house on wheels so we can move around. We also looked into earthships – heard about those?

    We also value being outside, so having a tiny space would motivate us to get outside more. My ideal tiny house would have a nice rooftop for lounging!

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