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Evolution of House Size in America

Why bigger is not always better

Tips for Downsizing Your Home

Know your “why”

When downsizing, looking at your “why” is essential. Why is it important to you? What is the purpose of downsizing? No matter if it’s money, a desired lifestyle, family, or something more, the bigger your “why” the more drive you’ll have to get rid of excess and live in your downsized space. – Tiny House Community

Identify needs versus wants

While deciding what to keep when downsizing can be extremely challenging, it’s helpful to separate the items you need from the items you want. You may have a gorgeous TV stand and large DVD collection, but practical thinking might instead have you wall-mounting your flat-screen and streaming movies instead. Things that previously would’ve been owned by each member of the home, like a closet or other clothing storage, can instead be treated communally and shared by all. For those considering moving to a modular tiny home, many builders offer optional loft areas for storage. – Wolf Industries

As van travel aficionados, we’ve learned a thing or two about living with less over the years. Our shortlist for downsizing success includes a thoroughly organized list of needs versus wants, multi-purpose items (think Swiss Army knives for starters), and the mental realization that you don’t need a lot of material things to be happy. From working on-the-go to being in a small space with our partners for long trips, we’ve gotten better through trial and error. Not to mention, we’ve got storage down to a fine art. Never underestimate the power of under-bed drawers and collapsible furniture! –  Voyager Camper Vans

Start by gathering up all the things you think you need in one place. Chances are you’ll fill up the room! Then group similar things – put your clothes together, cookware, tools, equipment, etc. Now you can start reducing in a very visual way seeing your piles get smaller. Clear out any duplicates or multiples. Consider getting rid of any “single-use” item like a tea kettle. A cooking pot can do double duty by heating water and cooking. You can also evaluate each item in terms of how often you’d use it in a typical week or month. – Vanlife Outfitters

Downsizing is difficult, but once you have freed yourself of your nonessential ‘stuff’, you will find you have so much more freedom. A van is a tiny home on wheels, but if designed carefully, affords you the opportunity to be thoughtful about every inch. We are big fans of clothes cubes and IKEA style storage bins to throw into cabinets. We love the clever use of wall and ceilings space – we have fishing rod holders on the ceiling of one of our vans and hooks strategically placed all over. It’s tough in the beginning but as soon as you get a system in place, it’s second nature. – Aspen Custom Vans

Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule)

We are firm believers in Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule).  We use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time and vice versa.  Moving into an alternative living space (like a van) requires an honest inventory of how often you use the majority of your belongings.  Many people, that downsize and simplify, find that they are much happier, more focused, and balanced with fewer belongings.

To anyone considering moving into a van – get rid of almost everything you haven’t touched in the last 60 days.  In most cases, you can live without it.  Believe it or not, you can live without the toaster oven, blender, and panini maker (all of which typically get very minimal, to begin with). – Vancraft

Quality over quantity

Living in a camper van is the extreme end of tiny home living, therefore you should always ensure each item you own is something you’ll use regularly and won’t easily break – emphasize quality, not quantity on every item you choose to keep. The camper van community loves to share their unique ideas so use the people to your advantage! Reach out, ask questions, and offer to share your own ideas as the best advice comes from someone who is currently living successfully small. – Boho Camper Vans

Optimize your storage

Here are a few tips: Think small. You will find a smaller version of everything you ever owned: plates, utensils, cups, blankets, etc.

Think collapsible. Many outdoor brands are doing the work for you already: collapsible containers, sinks, foldable tools, compact ovens, etc. They’re usually fun to use as well!

Think optimized. When you think you’re done organizing, think again. Maybe you can fold your t-shirts more effectively, allowing you to have one more in your cabinets. Optimize. Optimize. Optimize. – Vanlife Customs

I always recommend finding a permanent home for everything. Use drawer dividers, spacers and packing cubes. It keeps everything nice and tidy. Keep a laundry bag to store dirty laundry away from your clean items. Have a dedicated space that holds your cleaning supplies including a broom! Keeping your new tiny home tidy is one of the most important pieces of advice! It’ll feel bigger and you’ll be happy to go to bed at night knowing your new home is clean. It also makes finding items and making food a lot more pleasant. – Roamerica

When our tiny house customers ask us to build in storage systems, I always encourage them to begin living in the space before permanently committing to the location of their storage. After you begin using your new space, you get a better feel for which areas can be used for short-term storage and long-term storage (and maybe even which items you no longer need). Once you’ve determined that, you may decide to have storage built-in, or often you can find great storage solutions at IKEA at a fraction of the cost of built-ins. – Carriage Houses NW

Organization and cleanliness are key, especially in a tiny home. When we first downsized, one of our biggest frustrations was tripping over muddy hiking shoes in the morning. Having a dedicated space for wet or smelly items made all the difference. Packing these items in an exterior compartment or a well-ventilated area will keep your home smelling fresh. – Parked in Paradise

Get creative with the space you have

Get creative! When one goes tiny there is very little room for excess.  In the case of a houseboat, van, and some tiny homes, you will encounter a much different bathroom experience.  Whether it is water limitations because of tank capacity or just general space in a bathroom, B&B has a lifehack for this.  Take advantage of facilities in your surrounding areas.  A gym membership will promote a healthy active lifestyle and give you access to a social atmosphere, showers, towels, hygiene products, and a general mental stimulus to occupy a portion of your day.  Getting comfortable using a gym or clubs’ facilities could make the transition from a multiple bathroom situation down to a tight one bathroom household much easier. The money saved from the downsizing can usually more than cover your membership to these facilities. – B&B Tiny Houses

Take advantage of multi-purpose items

Choose items that can be used for multiple purposes when deciding what to take with you. For example, when we are building a van, we use a couch that turns into a bed and also has storage available below. Why not think that way when you pack? – Sportsmobile

With downsizing, there are two major things that have helped me in my minimalism journey. The first is to keep and pursue belongings that are dual purpose. If something can’t serve me in more than 1 way, I try to donate it, or simply just don’t purchase new items that don’t have a dual purpose. The second most important thing is to consolidate my belongings into 1 quality item. For example, when I moved into a van I had 5 pairs of black leggings – some were old, some had holes in the knees, etc. I donated all 5 and invested in a single high-quality pair and that new pair has now lasted me for multiple years. I apply this same principle to many items: drinking cups, shoes, backpacks, hiking gear, and more. It’s really made a difference! For more inspiration, you can also check out our Instagram here. – So We Bought A Van

Focus on functional systems

Since Outside Van is a fully custom van conversion company, we encourage vanlifers to be unique when designing their one-off vehicles. Since a van has limited space, focus on functional systems like power, solar, heat, and water. Just because a van looks good in photos doesn’t mean it’s a high-performing, functional vehicle for full-time living. And you might reconsider needing a toilet. – Outside Van

When preparing to move into a small space don’t limit your planning to where you will store things you want to keep, but also consider how you will manage your waste. Trash, recycling, and food waste can build up faster than you expect. Your beautifully designed space can quickly become a nightmare when three-day-old cans of tuna are left overflowing from your trash. Consider what waste a product will create before you buy it. – Vanvaya

Go Digital

We all have boxes of records, stacks of magazines and catalogs, unwanted piles of old bills, envelopes, lists, notebooks, etc.  Every cubic inch of a tiny home is loaded with intention and care for how the space looks and feels; a couple of boxes worth of this stuff could be lifestyle defining.  It might mean you couldn’t have a chair for a friend when she visits, some sports equipment you’ve been wanting, or space for plants and animal friends.  Scan it, upload it onto a computer and throw it onto a hard drive. Instead of books, music CDs, and Movies on DVD, transition to eBooks, Netflix and Spotify to declutter your collections.

Additionally, you can always consider moving somewhere warm so that your clothes are smaller, and you need less of them. – TruForm Tiny Homes

No room for materialism

In an era when modern life is fast-paced, more demanding and stressful, slowing down and savoring life can be hard. Costs of living are increasing all over the world, from Hong Kong to San Diego, so communities of ambient folk living on residential boats, camper-vans, trailers and static homes are gaining popularity as people escape the urban squash. Downsizing will mean that personal space is at a premium. While it can be a hugely bonding experience, you will be asking your loved ones to kindly move so you can pass every time you walk from the kitchen to the bedroom It’s impossible to be materialistic, as there simply isn’t room to store anything surplus to absolute requirement. Cooking becomes simplified, clothing whittled down to necessities and trinkets a thing of the past. – Rightboat

Tips for moving into a smaller space with a partner, kids, or pets

One of the most valuable things we can suggest when preparing to move into a smaller space is to make sure you are on the same page with your partner/housemates. Though you might think it’s not a big deal to throw away that box of high school trophies your wife has been lugging around for four years, it might be something they don’t want to toss. Make sure you do a visual assessment of your current space and then figure out a plan to downsize together. Perhaps there’s a designated area where you can put things you want to toss that everyone can look over before they actually end up in the dumpster or at Goodwill. – Authentic Asheville

 

Choosing to live a smaller, simpler life with your partner is often a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. My advice: don’t expect a tiny house to fix anything in your relationship; what it will likely do instead is to intensify everything. To be successful, it takes an increased focus on good, honest communication and kindness, moment to moment, to make sure each of your needs is met. This means designing your house (or lifestyle) to be sure both of you have the physical space (and time to yourselves) needed to thrive. If done with care, a shift to a smaller (even tiny house) lifestyle can bring you both more joy, intimacy and freedom. – The Tiny Project

Originally published on Redfin

10 Tips for Downsizing To A Tinier Lifestyle

Whether you plan to move into a tiny house on wheels, a small house on a foundation, or stay in your current house but just get rid of some junk, you could probably stand to purge some items.

You might find that by downsizing, you’re expanding your world.

1. Downsize gradually.  This process doesn’t have to be a stressful one: as long as you go slowly and thoughtfully, downsizing can be a fun way to reminisce and for many, a cathartic relief.  The best way to get started is to figure out what you don’t use.  Arrange your in-season clothing on hangers facing backwards.  After you wear and wash a piece of clothing, replace it on a hanger facing forwards.  After a few months, say goodbye to all the pieces of clothing you didn’t use.  Repeat this process in winter and summer.  Similarly, in the kitchen, clear out one or two cabinets and mark them.  When you use a cooking instrument, put it away in the marked cabinet.  After a couple months, get rid of everything you didn’t use.

2. Less is more in your decor.  Pare down your collection of objets d’art to a couple small pieces.  You’ll want to use the small amount of space you have for things you can use and not be sifting through knick knacks to find them.  Likewise, be sure the objects you use every day that are kept within view are pleasing to the eye: they will become part of your new decor scheme.  Consider multi-use furniture as well; although things like Murphy beds and fold-up tables can be more expensive and you’d have to rearrange your house daily, with multi-use furniture you can save space and simplify the look of your home.

3. On that note, use multi-use and consumable seasonal decor.  For holidays, I prefer to use in-season flowers and greenery from my local garden center rather than objects I’ll have to store in the off-season.  I also use decor that’s appropriate for multiple holidays, like white bistro lights, rather than specifically red and green lights for Christmas that can’t then be used again for Independence Day.  My house truly gets in the Christmas spirit when my plates are heaped with gingerbread cookies; my visitors don’t need to see those cookies on a Santa plate to be put in the holiday spirit!

4. Digitize your photos and files: an external hard drive takes up much less room than a file cabinet.  The process of going through photos and memories is a great way to connect to your past and get ready for your future, and it may be the only time in your life you’ll do so!  Books can be sentimental objects, so keep the ones that mean the most to you, but all others can be checked out of a library or read on an electronic device.

5. If you live in a cold climate, be sure to dedicate a space in your tiny house for coats and outdoor gear that’s separate from your regular clothing storage. That way, when you come in from a blizzard and peel off your boots and jacket they won’t get the rest of your clothes wet.

6. Think outside the house.  While your tiny house might not be able to fit a full chef’s kitchen or large lounge area, consider your deck or yard an outdoor kitchen and living room.  In addition to expanding your culinary offerings, grilling can be healthier, and in the summer, you’ll save energy by not heating your home with your oven or stove.  Set up lounge chairs or an outdoor sectional and spend more time outdoors.

tiny house woodburned siding tiny home arcadia b&b micro manufacturing

Photo: Kyle Finn Dempsey

7. Save your indoor space for the objects you use every day.  Invest in a storage shed to house things you won’t need to keep inside: vacuum-packed off-season clothing, craft supplies, outdoor gear.  If you’re skirting your tiny house, build a door or gate in your skirting so you can store skis, surfboards, bikes, and outdoor furniture underneath.

8. In your previous house or apartment, you may have had windows on only one or two sides of each room.  In a tiny house, you’ll have windows on all sides of you, and you’ll be closer to your windows at all times.  While this is spectacular in daylight, when night falls you’ll want them to be covered.  Choose light-blocking, thermally insulated window coverings for your privacy and comfort.

9. Look into community sharing programs.  Everything from bikes to clothing to lawn equipment can be shared, either in a neighborhood or through a rental app.  Some public libraries even have a “Library of Things”, where you can check out a theremin, a Check Engine scanner for your car, or a video projector when you want to have a movie night (to celebrate the start of summer season, this author hosted a screening of Wet Hot American Summer for her friends with the help of her local library).  Your tiny house might not have a guest room, but visitors can always stay in a nearby AirBnb.

10. Get involved in community activities.  If you enjoy stretching and physical activity, you’ll have less room for that inside a tiny house, so go to a gym, yoga studio, or dance studio. Likewise, exchange your home office for your public library, local coworking space or coffee shop.  Instead of a home theater, support your local independent movie theater and community playhouse.  Take advantage of inexpensive or free community programming, like adult education classes, group hikes, and cooking classes hosted by your local Parks & Rec department or Meetup.com.  By thinking of your community as an extension of your home, you’ll end up healthier, more invested in your neighborhood, and with an expanded social circle.

To learn more, check out these books on downsizing (from your library, of course!)

Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned Living in 140 Square Feet by Gregory Johnson

Gregory is considered one of the founders of the American tiny house movement.  This book is where the hanger trick came from!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo then it seems you’ve already downsized your media consumption as well.  She’s currently the world’s most famous expert on decluttering.

Downsizing The Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go by Marni Jameson for AARP

Published by the AARP, this book offers advice on downsizing an older relative’s home.

What downsizing tips did we miss?  Email us at info@bbtinyhouses.com to let us know!

Are You Financially Ready To Buy A Tiny House? 4 Ways to Get the Best Loan for Your Tiny House

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get financing and save up for your tiny house, whether it’s a turnkey RVIA certified Tiny House on Wheels or a DIY shell or frame.

Choosing the Best Tiny House for You

Tiny Houses on Wheels Vs. Tiny or Small Houses on Foundations

Before we talk about the best way to finance your tiny house, let’s talk about the different types of tiny houses. Please note that securing finance for your tiny house will have different processes depending upon if your tiny house is on wheels or on a foundation. Permanently-affixed tiny houses will be able to get traditional construction loans which can include site work. For this article, we will be focusing on financing a tiny house on wheels.

tiny home brodie mobile office studio The Brodie Mobile Office photographed by Steph Rapsiarda

Tiny House on Wheels: Price Difference Between Original or Off-The-Shelf Design

Building a tiny house of your original design through B&B allows you to create the exact tiny house that you’re envisioning, but due to economies of scalei.e. custom houses taking longer to build due to the fact that each one is unique and not able to be mass produced— this option can be quite costly. The second option is to buy a pre-designed tiny house. There is a wide variety of options and at B&B we will allow you to customize materials, colors, and appliances (click here for all of the customizable options at B&B). This is a great option for those that want to stay on budget and still put their personal touch on their tiny house.

tiny home new england tiny shellDIY Tiny House Frame

Build Your Own Tiny House Using a Shell or Frame Kit

The third option is to buy a wood-framed tiny house shell. A tiny house shell has the exterior complete and the interior incomplete. Shells can have windows, doors, plumbing, and electric complete or incomplete depending upon your needs and budget. Lastly, you have the option to buy a steel frame kit for your tiny house. This option ensures that you have a professionally built frame and allows you to customize your tiny house how you please; however, we do not recommend DIY options for anyone that does not have construction experience.  The shell and steel frame option are not certified by RVIA, meaning that it would be more difficult to get a loan. Both of these last two options can be a great choice for someone that wants to complete their tiny house by themselves or wants to self-finance their own tiny house in stages. The RVIA cannot certify shell or frame kit options because the tiny house will not have been finished in a RVIA certified location; however, it may be possible to get a personal loan for the shell or frame kit.  

If you are DIYing your tiny house, consider all the costs associated with building, not just the materials cost.

Are You Financially Ready To Own A Tiny House?

Consider Your Total Tiny House Cost– Not Just Monthly Loan Payments

Once you have decided on the best tiny house option for you, you will have a better idea of the loan you will need.  Because B&B is RVIA certified, you would be qualified to apply for an RV loan for any of our turnkey tiny houses on wheels. When determining your tiny house budget, you will also need to consider monthly costs such as electricity, maintenance, insurance, and where you will be keeping your tiny house.

Read our article on the all-in costs of a tiny house versus a traditional house. 

In addition, if you need site work–grading, clearing trees, adding a pad–or infrastructure–fresh water, waste water, and power–you’ll need to consider these costs in your total budget. You will want to estimate these costs before you decide the amount of the loan you’re willing to take out. Just like a home mortgage, your income, credit score, market factors, and down payment will all affect the terms of your loan. After you’re pre-approved, B&B will schedule a design session with you in order to get your final quote.  

tiny home brodie mobile office studio

 The Brodie Mobile Office photographed by Steph Rapsiarda

4 Ways to Get the Best Loan for Your Tiny House

Improve Your Credit Score 

Improving your credit score will help you lower your monthly payment. This is because the bank views those with higher credit scores as being more reliable and thus will give them better rates and bigger loans.  Here are 11 ways to improve your credit score.

Save for Your Down Payment

The more that you save for your down payment, then the lower your monthly payment will be, so start adding to your tiny house piggy bank!

Choose the Best Tiny House Type For You, then Choose Your Floor Plan

After you’ve chosen the best type of tiny house for your needs, whether it’s a DIY frame, shell, or a turnkey tiny house that’s move-in ready (and RVIA-certified), you’ll be able to get an estimate on the floor plan you want and start researching your loan options.

Shop Around

It’s a good idea to contact a few different financial institutions to get the best deal for you.  Check out all your tiny house financing options here including getting a Tiny House Loan through Adams Community Bank, an RV loan through Lightstream, and a personal loan through your own bank or credit union.

Why aren’t lofts included in a tiny home’s square footage?

Determining the Square Footage in Tiny Homes

We are often asked about how we calculate square feet in our tiny homes. This is a great question as there is no regulation regarding calculating square feet–this is true even in traditional homes. Rather, there is an accepted code that the industry follows. Other competitors do not always follow the same code that we at B&B use when calculating square feet, which can make comparing tiny homes confusing.

Pictured: the Hoosic Tiny House

The Technicalities

Let’s dive into some of the different criteria for what spaces must meet.  We use the International Building Code, specifically Building Code Appendix Q, which describes the code for tiny houses on foundations.  Although much of what B&B Tiny Houses builds are tiny houses on wheels, we use the international building code as a guide for calculating square footage.

From IBC Appendix Q:

Minimum ceiling height: habitable space must be over 6 feet and 8 inches with the exception of bathrooms and kitchens which must be over 6 feet and 4 inches

Loft: located at least 30 inches above the main floor, is open to the main floor, and used as a living or sleeping space

Pictured: The Arcadia Tiny House

Calculating Square Feet in Tiny Homes

Tiny houses on wheels, in order to be road-legal, must be 13 1/2′ off the ground in order to fit under bridges.  Therefore, it would be impossible or a tiny house to have a loft one can stand up in.  Because lofts in tiny houses on wheels do not meet the minimum ceiling height to be considered “habitable” space in the building code, they should not be included in a tiny home’s square footage.

To calculate the square footage, multiply the inside width and length of the tiny house. Almost all of B&B’s tiny houses on wheels are the road-legal maximum width of 8 1/2′; their length varies.  The exterior walls of our tiny homes (unless otherwise specified) are 6 inches thick on each side and end. To calculate the square footage of the Stony Ledge which has outside dimensions of 8 1/2′ x 30′, we multiply 7 1/2′ x 29′ to get 217 1/2 square feet.  The Arcadia, which has a loft, has a square footage of 142 1/2 plus a 45 square foot loft.

When shopping for tiny homes, you should always check how the square feet has been calculated. Otherwise, it can be like comparing apples and oranges. If you are interested in learning more about the square feet in tiny homes, read this post about why tiny homes cost more per square feet than traditional homes.

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