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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!

Under Construction: The Green River Small Home by B&B Quality Construction

The Green River Small Home

  • Built by B&B Quality Construction, a division of B&B Micro Manufacturing, Inc.

  • Built on-site on a foundation (not on wheels)

  • Small footprint at 16′ x 20′ plus a porch

  • Kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs

  • Stairs up to sleeping loft

B&B Quality Construction builds homes and other buildings on-site with traditional construction techniques.  They are available for projects within reasonable distance of North Adams, Massachusetts.

The Green River Small Home is currently under construction.  Click to enlarge the construction photos below.

Green River Small Home Floor Plan Tiny House B&B Quality Construction

 

EDIT: Construction is now finished!  Click here to see the finished photos and a video tour of the Green River Small House. 

Interested in a small, permanently-affixed house like this near North Adams, MA?  Contact us!

What are Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and do I need them in my Tiny House?

What Do HRVs Do For The Air Quality In My Tiny House?

Do I need one in my tiny house?

The tiny houses built by B&B Tiny Houses are well insulated and sealed.  This works great for keeping the inside warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but it means the air inside can get stale.

HRVs, or Heat Recovery Ventilators, control a home’s humidity, reduce indoor mold and mildew, and exhaust stale, polluted air.  Unlike traditional vent fans, however, HRVs recover some of the warmth that’s being exhausted to the outside in the winter time, while removing the pollutants and moisture to ensure that the fresh air coming in is still warm.  Maintaining the temperature of the air while exchanging stale air for fresh air cuts down on the cost of heating a home.

The HRVs we use in our tiny houses come in pairs, where units are placed on opposite walls and air flow is transferred back and forth.  In a tiny house, only one pair is necessary, because it’s such a small space.   Each unit is installed directly on an exterior wall, so no ductwork is needed.  Even when the door to, say, the bathroom is closed, it’ll still work because we leave a 3/4″ space beneath the door in tiny houses with HRVs.  They are turned on and off by a switch.

From the 475 Lunos e² HRV website:

#6 in the photo is the part you’ll see on the interior wall of your tiny house.  #1 is what you’ll see on the outside of the tiny house.

Where should HRVs be used?

Heat Recovery Ventilators are for use in the USA’s northern states.  Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) are to be used in the southern states.

Does an HRV warm or cool the house?

No; it maintains the inside temperature, rather than sucking all the heat or cool out of house.

Is it loud?

The system contains a sound muffler.  It produces 0.12 sones at its lowest setting while a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen produces about 1.0 sones.

Do I really need an HRV in my tiny house?

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to spring for an HRV.  The type of HRV we use costs around a few thousand dollars, so it’s worth spending the time to decide whether you really want one in your home.

Factors to consider include:

  • How many people will live in the tiny house?  The more people, the staler the air will be.
  • How often is the tiny house used?  Is this your primary residence or your vacation home?  If it’s just used as a weekend cottage, an HRV system is probably not necessary because new air pollutants will not be introduced every day; a simple bathroom exhaust fan, while less energy-efficient, should do the trick.
  • What is your sensitivity to mold?  HRVs prevent the buildup of mold and mildew: those with an allergy or sensitivity to mold or mildew will benefit from an HRV system.
  • Do you have breathing issues?  Those with asthma, dust mite allergies, and other breathing issues may benefit from this air exchange.
  • What is your cooking style?  Scents from cooking may linger in a home, even with propane stoves come with a range hood.  An HRV can help get rid of cooking odors.
  • How energy efficient do you want your house to be? HRVs introduce new fresh air, warmed by the old stale air, into the house.  Consider the cost of the HRV versus the cost of heat energy you’ll save by installing one.  If you aren’t heating your tiny house full-time in the winter, the HRV will take longer to pay for itself.

What if I don’t use an HRV?

It’s important to not let mold and mildew build up from the moisture created by your bathroom and kitchen.  But if you don’t have an HRV in your tiny house, there are other ways to get fresh air into your home.  Our tiny house bathrooms come with a vent fan that goes on whenever the bathroom light is switched on.  Vent fans will let the heat out of your house in the winter, but they are included with the basic model tiny houses and are much less expensive to install.  You can also just open your windows periodically to let the fresh air in. All of our houses with a propane stove/oven also come with a kitchen range hood.

How do HRVs work?

This video explains how a heat recovery ventilator works.  The example shown in the video is for a much larger house; the ones used in tiny houses look like white squares, CD case shaped attached to the wall at opposite ends of the house.

Planning Board Meeting Recap: Backyard Cottages in Williamstown, MA?

Williamstown, MA had its planning board meeting last night, discussing whether to allow backyard cottages and second apartments to homes in certain zones of town. It was a full house, with others who couldn’t get seats standing in the hallway.

In the photo, Amy Jeschawitz, Chair of the Planning Board, sits under the town flag, depicting Williamstown’s beloved 1753 House. The 1753 House was originally called a “Regulation House” by the early European settlers, who, in order to be considered land owners, had to build a house that was at least 15’ x 18’ and 7’ tall. At 270 sq ft, this would certainly be considered a “tiny house” by today’s standards!

The size of the detached ADUs (backyard cottages) in the current proposed bylaw would be limited to between 900 and 1200 square feet, determined by the size of the existing home and its lot.

Also addressed was allowing a second unit to an existing single family home, either within or added on to the existing building. These two bylaws would mean that a single unit property within certain zones could ostensibly turn into a three-unit property.
The planning board voted 3-1 in favor of recommending the proposed bylaws, with the additional restriction of a five year wait between adding a second unit to a property and adding a third.

The bylaws will now be taken to Town Meeting.

Read more on the meeting from iBerkshires: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/59488/Williamstown-Planners-Recommend-Dwelling-Bylaw-Amendments.html

Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages.  (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).

After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board.  Here’s his recap:

  • The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover!  The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
  • Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday.  However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
  • Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
  • All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review.  Her report should come back in August or September.  All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).

As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option.  She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.

-K. Jackson

Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.

Are Composting Toilets Allowed in Massachusetts?

Composting toilets and greywater systems can be a great solution for how to deal with waste water.  But are you allowed to use them on your own land in MA?

Spoiler alert: Like pretty much every code, there’s not a single easy answer that applies everywhere.

According to mass.gov, for residential homes: “Title 5 (310 CMR 15.000) allows composting toilets for Remedial Use and also certifies them for General Use in new residential construction where a system in full compliance with Title 5 could otherwise be installed. The local approving authority (typically the Board of Health) must also approve installation of a composting toilet through a Disposal System Construction Permit and Certificate of Compliance. Check with your local Board of Health for its approval procedures.”

Read all the details here:

Source: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/qm/comptoi.pdf

Note that this doesn’t apply to tiny houses on wheels– only homes that are permanently affixed.

In summary, Title 5 allows for conforming composting toilets and a greywater system in new residential construction where there could otherwise be a septic system.  However, this doesn’t mean it’s allowed in every town.  The local Board of Health will also have to approve it. 

Here’s how to get in touch with your local Board of Health in Massachusetts.

But wait: a composting toilet isn’t the only option for your tiny house!

B&B offers five different toilets for tiny houses on wheels: the best solution for you depends on where you’re parking your tiny house, whether it’ll move, what utilities are available and how often you’ll use your tiny house.  Check out this blog post on the 5 Types Of Tiny House Toilets.

 

 

 

Why Tiny Houses Can Be for Almost Anyone

Who should own a tiny house?

Tiny houses have risen in popularity over the years, and there’s a good reason for this: tiny houses offer many perks that will appeal to almost anyone. Tiny houses are economical, sustainable, and can even be a great investment or supplementary source of income.

 

Baby Boomers

We’ve had baby boomers choose the tiny house lifestyle for a multitude of reasons. Some want a big change in their life, want a simpler life, or want to travel more. Also, we have had baby boomers choose to live in a tiny house and rent out their traditional house for additional income.

Millennials

With educational loans and rent costs rising, many millennials are delaying buying a house–only 20 percent of millennials have a mortgage. In addition, many millennials find the pros of living more sustainable and minimalistic very desirable. Tiny houses allow millennials to put money that would otherwise be going down the drain towards an investment that they can get back.

Those Wanting a Simpler and more Environmentally Conscious Life

If you’re looking for a change in your life and yearn to get away from all hecticness  that overconsumption can bring, the tiny house lifestyle may be the solution you’ve been seeking. The minimalistic lifestyle is about owning the perfect amount and focusing on your needs and talents in order to become the happiest version of yourself. Because space is a commodity in a tiny house, it makes you to only keep and buy what will add value to your life. Read more about minimalism here.

On and off-grid options allow tiny house owners to reduce their carbon footprint–a net zero carbon footprint is possible in off-grid living. Tiny houses require less materials to build and use significantly less water, heating, and cooling because of their size. In addition, their size limits the amount of waste produced. Check out these two blogs to learn more about simple living and off-grid living.

Families

Families that decide to go tiny may use the house for vacations or live in it full time. Although living with your family in a tiny house will undeniably bring its own challenges, the benefits of living in a tiny house are immeasurable. Teaching your kids about the importance of memories and family are just a few!  Read about this five person family that decided to go tiny full time.  

Families Looking for Flexible and Accessible Housing 

Families with aging parents or those that want to provide their older children with special needs an increased sense of independence can turn to tiny houses. Nursing homes cost an average of $235 daily for a shared room, which is a hefty sum for most families. Our tiny houses can be built to ADA standards and are a much cheaper option. Additionally, the tiny houses can be placed and hooked up to your utility grid–allowing you to be walking distance away from the tiny house (as long as you ensure your town allows tiny houses).

Anyone on the Move or Looking for Weekend Getaways 

Because many tiny houses are on wheels–ours at B&B are on wheels and RVIA certified–tiny houses can go wherever you travel. If you’re a person that loves to travel or are looking for a weekend getaway to go hiking, skiing, or otherwise enjoy yourself and save money by opting out of an expensive hotel, then a tiny house is a perfect fit for you. Whether you decide to build your tiny house on or off-grid, you will have many places to keep your tiny house; the amount of places you can keep your tiny house off grid are endless and in most places you can stay in your on-grid tiny house wherever a RV or trailer is allowed.

 

Developers, Renters, Campgrounds, and Hoteliers 

Developers have started investing in tiny house campgrounds and hotels. These sites offer guests a unique way to travel and experience their surroundings. Check out these tiny house hotels across the United States.In addition, tiny house owners can rent out their tiny house on sites like AirBnB when they are not using it. Read our blog post on turning your tiny house into an investment. Tiny houses provide a great business venture for those that wish to embark.

 

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Grid-Tied vs. Off-Grid Solar Power in Tiny Homes

Picking the Best Solar Power Option

Many tiny home owners chose to adopt the minimalist lifestyle in order to live more sustainably. Solar panels offer a great form of renewable energy, but there are many considerations that you will need to keep in mind before you decide if solar power is the right option for you. In this post, we will talk about the differences between grid-tied and off-grid solar power.

Grid-Tied Solar Systems

As the name suggests, grid-tied solar systems connect to a utility power grid.
Pros
– Net metering: Net metering is when excess energy created by your solar panels is sent to the utility power grid for others to use. This allows solar panel owners to be paid for the excess electricity that their panels create.
On-grid Connectivity: If the solar panels do not create enough power for your tiny home, then the electrical grid will give electricity to your home as needed. This can allow a tiny home owner to buy solar panels in phases and increase the amount of panels their home relies on whenever the owner pleases.
– Affordability: Grid-tied solar power is the cheapest option for solar energy.
Cons
Lack of Transportability: Many tiny home owners like to frequently move around with their tiny house. Because of this, a grid-tied system would not be the ideal choice because they might not have access to an electrical meter while on the move.

grid-tied solar system tiny home

Off-grid Solar Systems

Off-grid systems are able to move with tiny home owners as they travel. Off-grid systems work by converting sunlight to power during the day and then storing this power in batteries for future use.
Pros
Transportability: With this option, you are able to travel with your tiny home and have a source of power.
On-grid connect-ability: There are off-grid options that can also connect to the grid, which enables tiny home owners to not have to worry about not having electricity and allows owners to sell back surplus electricity.
Cons
 Price: Compared to grid-tied systems, off-grid systems cost more money. In order to prevent a lack of power, most off-grid systems are oversized to make sure that there are no outages; this usually takes into consideration 1-2 days without solar panel generation.

Lack of Electricity: Solar panels may not produce enough electricity due to weather or because your tiny home is using more power than predicted. As discussed above, this is why most off-grid systems are oversized. Tiny home owners do have the option of charging the batteries via a generator if there is not enough solar power produced.

off-grid solar system tiny home

Depending on how you are wanting to use your tiny home and budget will probably be most tiny home owners’ biggest considerations when deciding which solar system to opt for.