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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

Understanding Tiny House Systems: Toilets, Tanks, Power, and Water

How Do Utilities Work in Tiny Houses on Wheels?

You’ve seen beautiful tiny houses on wheels on TV, in magazines, and on the internet.  You could see yourself buying a tiny house one day.  You could use it for vacations, put it in your backyard to use as a studio or guest house, or you could live in your tiny house full-time.

Hoosic Tiny House Exterior

In this photo: The Hoosic Tiny House

But you may have asked yourself: if it’s on wheels, how does it really work?  How do you get power to a tiny house?  How do you get fresh water in and waste water out?  How are tiny houses climate controlled?  What expenses are you forgetting to include in your overall budget?  

There’s a lot more to buying a tiny house than just buying the tiny house.  You’ll need to have a good understanding of how it all works, and how you’ll deal with fresh water, waste water, power, and parking.  There are many options for different types of tiny house setups.  Before building, your builder will need to know how you plan to use your house so he or she can help you choose the best appliances and systems for your specific situation.  Read about tiny house design sessions.

Setting Up Your Tiny House

Because they’re on wheels, tiny houses can travel.  However, life on the road isn’t for everyone: most tiny house dwellers live in one place with permanent utility connections.

new tiny house constructionIf you’re traveling with your tiny house:

  • Buy a truck powerful enough to pull your tiny house.  Here’s an article on truck capacity for different tiny houses.
  • Make sure to let your builder know they’ll need to insulate for all climates.  When traditional houses are built, they are insulated according to what zone they’re in.  Houses in colder climates need a lot more insulation.  But when a movable house is built, it needs to withstand all kinds of weather.
  • Tiny houses that travel go through a lot of wear and tear.  The amount of wind and vibration a tiny house experiences when driving on the highway is the same as if the house were sitting still in a hurricane.  Secure your items well inside your tiny house, and prepare to perform more maintenance on your tiny house since it will be traveling often.
  • Make sure you know where you’ll be traveling to (RV parks? Friends’ houses?) and where you’ll store your tiny house when you’re not staying in it. It’s not always easy finding places to put your tiny house, so it pays to be prepared!
  • In the same vein, research the cost of renting space, what utility hookups are required, and include your transportation costs, like fuel and road food, in your budget.  Check out this article on the all-in cost of living in a tiny house.
  • If you plan to sell your tiny house when you’re done traveling, make your resale easier by buying a tiny house with a layout that’s as universally appealing as possible.

If your tiny house will stay in one place:

Most people place their tiny house on a gravel or concrete pad.  This keeps utility lines in place and systems working properly (for example, some mini splits can leak if they’re not level).

Anchors are a great idea: they’ll keep your house from shaking even in the worst weather.

Skirting, while not necessary, also reduces shaking in high winds, and, if insulated, helps keep your pipes from freezing.  Skirting creates a more permanent look to your tiny house.

If you don’t have a location for your tiny house yet, here are some things to consider when looking:

If you’ll be placing your tiny house in a backyard, here are some tips:

  • Tiny houses on wheels are generally legally considered RVs, so if you can park an RV in your yard, you can park a tiny house in your yard.  Whether it can legally be lived in full time is a different question.  You’ll have to find out from your town’s zoning board.  Here’s how.
  • Choose a spot in your yard for your tiny house wisely.  In addition to the space the tiny house will take up, you’ll need to ensure the delivery truck will have enough space to maneuver the house into place and then drive away.

Photos in this section: The Arcadia Tiny House and the Spectacle Tiny House (a custom-built park model that’s not in our catalogue).


Tiny House Water Systems

When people envision life on the road, they picture a life of freedom.  But if you’re a human, you’ll still need water for life’s basics: drinking, cooking, and bathing.

RV Hookups for Water

For water, RV hookups come standard on B&B Tiny Houses.  RV hookups have an inlet for a fresh water hose and an outlet for waste water.  You can connect the hoses to a hookup pedestal at an RV park or, if your tiny house is in a backyard, to the main house.

Tiny houses on wheels have four potential spaces where water is used: kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower or bath, and toilet.  Depending on whether you’ll be traveling or staying put, and what systems are available at your location, we’ll help you decide on the best type of toilet for your lifestyle.

If you’re traveling, here’s how to hook up your tiny house at a campground:

Some tiny houses have water tanks and some don’t. If you’ll always be hooked up to a water system when you’re using water, you won’t need water tanks.

If your tiny house has water tanks, the tanks can store fresh and waste water until your house gets to a pumping station.

If you have water tanks, here’s a video on how to empty waste water (black water) tanks at a dumping station.

Permanent Tiny House Hookups

If your tiny house is staying in one place, you’ll want a more maintenance-free water system.  Tiny houses on wheels can be hooked up permanently to the same systems traditional houses use: a well or city water for fresh water, and septic or sewer for waste water.

If your tiny house is in the back yard of a traditional house, you can hook your tiny house up to the existing water system, as long as it has the capacity to add another “bedroom”, which is code for “the water usage equivalent of one or two people being added to a house”. Generally, when houses are built, the water system permits the house to add at least one extra bathroom, in case the house gets an addition in the future.

  • If the main house is on city water, you’ll need to check town records to see if the house is permitted to add another hookup to the water system.  Check with town records to see if this is true in your situation.  Most often (but not always) when houses are on city water, waste water will go to a city sewer.
  • If the main house is on a well, check to see if the well will need to expand its capacity to provide enough water for the tiny house.  Most often (but not always) when houses are on a well, waste water will go to a septic system.

Generally, we advise our customers not to DIY sewer connections, as there’s too much that can go wrong.  However, we want you to have an understanding of how it’s done, so please watch the following video of how one DIYer connected his RV to the sewer.

  • Contrary to what this DIYer did, we advise having a trench dug by site work professionals to bury your water lines.  This is for aesthetic reasons as well as to prevent freezing.  If your water lines are above ground and you’re using your tiny house year-round in a climate that freezes, wrap your hoses in heat tape from an RV supply store.

Tiny House Power Sources

Power is the second most important utility your tiny house will require.  If it’s good weather outside, you can survive without using power, as if you’re going camping.  But if you want to take a hot shower, operate lights and other electronics, and generally live like a modern human, you’ll need a constant source of power going to your tiny house.

  • Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterMost tiny houses on wheels come with RV hookups where you plug an extension cord with an adapter into the side of your house.
    • These connections work best for those who plan to use electric appliances like ovens or washer/dryers in their tiny house.
    • If you’ll permanently anchor your tiny house, however, you can have your builder put a permanent power receptacle in.  It’ll go either underneath your house so the wires can be buried, or near the roof of your house so you can run overhead wires.
  • Solar power systems are another option.  Installing solar systems is much more expensive up front, but they can pay for themselves after 10 or so years.
    • If you want an off-grid solar system that powers your whole house, you’ll need to set aside outdoor space for solar panels and indoor space like a closet for batteries and the control center.  You’ll need to choose your appliances to work well with solar energy (for example, choose a gas fireplace instead of an electric heater) and use energy conservatively.
    • Most people use grid-tied solar, which supplements power from the power lines and sells energy back to the grid when you’re not using it all (your meter will run backwards!)  Another advantage to grid-tied solar is you won’t run out of energy on a cloudy day, because when your batteries are depleted your system will automatically switch to grid power.

Talk To Us About Designing The Best Power & Water System For Your Lifestyle

We hope this explanation of the many ways to set up your tiny house was helpful.  In your design session, we’ll ask you to describe what your living situation will be and we’ll go over the best options for your specific situation.

Here’s an article that walks you through the 8 steps of buying a tiny house.  When you’re ready to buy your tiny house, contact us to get started!


Thank you to YouTubersSean and Kristie Michael of Long Long Honeymoon, Mark Rowles, and BuckWSR for their instructional videos.

Here’s How To Find Out If Your City or Town Allows Tiny Houses in 3 Steps

Here’s how to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses.

1. Look up zoning codes.

Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com.

Here are some helpful search terms:

If you’re hoping to put a tiny house ON WHEELS either on its own property or on a property with other buildings:

  • Tiny House
  • RV, Recreational Vehicle, or Recreation Vehicle
  • Park Model (if your tiny house is greater than 8.5′ in width)

If you’re hoping to build a backyard cottage ON A FOUNDATION:

  • ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit
  • Detached ADU
  • Accessory Apartment

If you’re hoping to build a small house ON A FOUNDATION on its own piece of land:

  • Minimum Square Footage, Minimum SF, Minimum Sq Ft, or Minimum Sq. Ft.
  • Frontage (some towns don’t have a minimum square footage but they have rules on how big the road-facing portion of the house is based on the percentage of road frontage the property has)

Appendix Q for tiny houses on foundations:

If you’re hoping for a tiny or small house ON A FOUNDATION, look into whether your state has adopted Appendix Q for tiny houses into its building code.  Appendix Q is a set of safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under, basically providing standards for how lofts and ladders are built.  More info on Appendix Q for Tiny Houses here.  If your state hasn’t adopted Appendix Q, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t build small: it just means you’ll have to follow your state’s existing building code for lofts and ladders, and the other details in the Tiny House Appendix.

On January 1, 2020, Massachusetts and California simultaneously will join Maine, Idaho, Oregon and Georgia as the first six states to adopt the Tiny House Appendix into their building code.  Many other states are in the process of adopting the Tiny House Appendix.  The Tiny Home Industry Association has updates on Appendix Q across the United States.

Please note: there may be more lenient rules depending on whether your tiny house will be used seasonally, as a “guest house”, “camper”, or “cabin” rather than as a full-time, permanent residence.  If you’ll only be using your tiny house sometimes, residential zoning laws and building codes may not apply.  Check in with your municipality if this is the case.

Photo: Arcadia Tiny House on Wheels.  This tiny house can travel, and it’s certified as an RV.  It’s currently being used as a guest house at Woodlife Ranch; it isn’t someone’s permanent home.

2. In the (likely) event there are no tiny-house-specific zoning codes, shoot your town zoning board an email.

If you can’t find any info on tiny houses in the town’s zoning but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal to live in full-time, send a quick email to your town’s building inspector or zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).

Be sure to include the following information:

  • What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
  • What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
  • A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed.  If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.

They’ll be able to tell you whether tiny houses are legal.

Photo: Green River Small House.  This house was built on-site, piece by piece, and it is compliant with local zoning bylaws and state building code.  It’s being used as a permanent, year-round home.

3.  If there aren’t any tiny house zoning bylaws yet, you can request your town changes their standards (and you don’t have to be an expert to ask!)

If tiny houses are not currently included in the zoning bylaws, your zoning board will be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change to the zoning bylaws.  Generally this process takes a while, and the zoning board will guide you through it.  You don’t have to be an expert to request a zoning change, just an interested citizen!  Be prepared with knowledge of how having tiny houses would help your town or city. Here are some examples, which you can tailor to the specific needs of your municipality:

  • If your town center has historic buildings but downtown housing prices are excluding a large chunk of the population from living there, adding tiny houses (either on wheels or on foundations) to backyards as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) can densify and diversify neighborhoods without destroying their architectural character.  Don’t tear down those beautiful old buildings to add more households: add backyard cottages instead!
  • Tiny houses on wheels can provide flexible temporary living spaces for those who may need a live-in caregiver for a few years.  This setup is great for those who are aging in place and need a caregiver close by, a disabled adult living in the ADU in the backyard of their family, or an ill person who cannot live on their own but needs the privacy of their own living space.  If necessary, tiny houses can be built wheelchair-friendly (check out the Wheel Pad).
  • Tiny houses on wheels are also great for people in traveling professions, like military personnel, travel nurses, or agricultural workers.  However, these people need places to stay.  Allowing landowners to rent out a space for travelers helps them earn extra income while adding spaces for traveling workers to live that cause a low impact on the environment.
  • A pocket community of tiny houses on wheels or small homes on foundations can add much-needed housing stock (let’s be honest, there’s a housing shortage almost everywhere in the US) that is more affordable than the large homes that most developers are building now.

It’s best to do this before you have your tiny house built.  This way, you can be flexible in your design, making sure it conforms with the standards the town creates.

kinderhook tiny house in snow park model

Photo: Kinderhook Park Model Tiny House.  It’s a park model because it’s on wheels, but at 10′ wide, it’s too wide to go on the roads without an oversize load permit.  For this reason, these houses usually stay put after delivery. 
Bonus for MA residents:
We’re creating a list of each town in Massachusetts and whether it allows tiny houses.  If you’ve done this in Massachusetts, please let us know so we can add it to the list!

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!

How To Find Tiny House Land: Resources and Knowledge You’ll Need

For many tiny housers, finding land is the toughest part of the journey.  Here’s how to start your tiny house land search.

Before having your tiny house built, you should already have a spot to put it lined up. You don’t want to end up with a tiny house and nowhere to put it!

Because tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities have never had anyone approach them to ask whether they can live in a tiny house.  Therefore, most municipalities don’t have any bylaws saying you can or can’t live specifically in a tiny house.  Use this guide to learn what you’ll need to know to get the perfect parking spot for your tiny house.

Start Here:

Learn about the tiny house buying process.

The 8 Steps To Buying A Tiny House: Everything You’ll Need To Do To Go Tiny

This post covers your entire tiny house buying process, and the first and most important step is finding a place to put it.  Whether you’ll be buying or renting land, familiarize yourself with the tiny house buying process and how long it’ll take, before starting to your land search.

Learn how to look up zoning laws and how to ask your zoning board to live in your tiny house.

Things to Know Before Buying or Renting Land For Your Tiny House (Or, Where Can You Put A Tiny House?)

Here, you’ll learn how to find and read your town or city’s zoning laws to find out whether there are already rules for tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels.  If your town doesn’t have laws pertaining to tiny houses, you’ll learn how to approach your town to ask.  Importantly, you’ll also learn what to look for in the land, including hookups for fresh water, waste water, and power.

Rent or buy land for your tiny house.

Where Can I Put My Tiny House? A Near-Comprehensive List Of Tiny House Parking Resources

Now that you know how to look for zoning laws and get permission to live in your tiny house, you’ll need to do some networking to find a spot for it!  Facebook and Meetup are both great networking sites for tiny house enthusiasts, and this list links to Facebook and Meetup groups about tiny houses in almost every state.  In addition to networking on tiny house specific sites and groups, advertise on local forums on Facebook, Craigslist, and community bulletin boards asking for those willing to rent out or sell land for a tiny house.  The sooner you find land the sooner you can get started with the build.  Good luck, and let us know how your land search goes!

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

Arcadia Tiny House at Woodlife Ranch. Photo by Kyle Finn Dempsey

 

Quiz: Which Tiny House is Right For You?

We know: there are so many beautiful designs to choose from and the choices can get overwhelming!  Which is the best tiny house for you?

Click each answer that’s the best fit for you: there are no wrong answers!


What's your approximate budget?

Tow it yourself or have us deliver?

Which master bed configuration is your favorite?

How many people will be sleeping in your tiny house?

Which Tiny House Design Is Right For You?
Hudson

The Hudson is a compact 8.5 x 20' tiny house with a kitchenette, 3/4 bath, and first-floor bed. Click to see more photos and info of The Hudson.
For another tiny house with a first-floor bed, you might also want to check out The Taconic, & for another tiny house that's lightweight for towing, the Hoosic.
Hoosic

The Hoosic is a compact 8.5 x 20' tiny house with a kitchenette, 3/4 bath, and loft bed. Click to see more photos and info of The Hoosic.
For another tiny house with a loft bed, you might also want to check out The Arcadia, & for another compact tiny house that's lightweight for towing, the Hoosic.
Arcadia

The Arcadia is an 8.5 x 24' tiny house with a porch, full kitchen, 3/4 bath, and sleeping loft. Click to see more info and photos of The Arcadia.
For another tiny house that can sleep four (two in the loft and two on a sofabed), you might also want to check out The Hoosic, & for another tiny house with a beautiful full kitchen, the Stony Ledge.
Stony Ledge

The Stony Ledge is an 8.5 x 30' tiny house with a full kitchen, full bath, and first-floor bedroom separated from the rest of the house. The Stony Ledge Tiny House is right for you!
For another tiny house that has a full kitchen, first-floor sleeping and a bathtub, you might also want to check out The Ashmere, & for another tiny house with all the above features but two lofts instead of a downstairs bedroom, the Cold Spring.
Silver Lake

The Silver Lake is an 8.5 x 32' tiny house with a large living room, full kitchen, 3/4 bath, and bedroom separated from the rest of the house by a wall. The Silver Lake Tiny House is right for you!
For another tiny house with a full kitchen and no loft, you might also want to check out The Ashmere, & for another tiny house with a beautiful full bathroom and separate, first-floor bedroom, the Stony Ledge.
Ashmere

The Ashmere is an 8.5 x 30' tiny house with a beautiful clerestory roof, full kitchen, full bath, and a bed on the ground floor. The Ashmere Tiny House is right for you!
For another tiny house that has its bed on the ground floor, you might also want to check out The Hudson, & for another tiny house with a full kitchen and full bath, the Stony Ledge.
Cold Spring

The Cold Spring is an 8.5 x 26' tiny house with a full kitchen, full bath, and two sleeping lofts. Out of all our tiny houses, it can sleep the most people: 2 in each queen-sized loft and 2 guests in the living room. The Cold Spring Tiny House is right for you!
For another "large tiny house", you might also want to check out The Kinderhook, & for another tiny house with a full kitchen and full bath, the Stony Ledge.
Taconic

The Taconic is an extra-wide 10' x 24' tiny house with a porch, kitchenette, 3/4 bath, and ground-floor bed (no loft!). With its boxy roofline and porch with windscreens on four sides, it's one of our most modern designs. The Taconic Tiny House is right for you!
For another tiny house with modern design, you might also want to check out The Silver Lake, & for another extra-wide tiny house, the Kinderhook.
Kinderhook

The Kinderhook Tiny House is an extra-wide and extra-long 10' x 30' tiny house. It has an extra-wide sleeping loft, full kitchen, and your choice of either a full bathroom or a 3/4 bath + washer dryer. The Kinderhook is right for you!
For a miniature version of the Kinderhook that's lightweight for towing, you might also want to check out The Hoosic, & for another extra-wide tiny house, the Taconic.

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The 8 Steps To Buying A Tiny House: Everything You’ll Need To Do To Go Tiny

You’ve been dreaming about your very own tiny house for years.  Are you ready to take the leap?

Here are all the steps you’ll take in the tiny house buying process.


Choose a tiny house site.

For some this is easy: a backyard, a piece of property in a town that allows RVs, or an RV park.  For those who don’t yet know where to put their tiny house, finding a location to put their tiny house is a crucial step.  We’ll build your tiny house differently depending on whether you plan to travel often with your house or it’ll stay in one place.  There are many different customization options available for your tiny house, which often depend on what kind of utilities are available at your tiny house site.

You’ll need to make sure your site has an access road and enough room for a truck to deliver the tiny house.  If you send us the layout of your property we’ll help you determine the best spot to place your tiny house during your design session.

Here’s a blog post on where to put your tiny house, and what to know if you’re thinking of buying land for your tiny house.

One way to find a location is through networking.  Here’s a list of tiny house networking sites: most of these groups are through Facebook or Meetup.

If you’re finding it difficult to find a town that already allows tiny houses, you’re not alone.  In fact, most towns’ Planning/Zoning Boards haven’t even considered whether to allow tiny houses on wheels: all it’ll take to start the wheels turning (pun intended, sorry) is for someone to ask.  The American Tiny House Association (Website, Facebook) is a great resource for those who would like to ask for permission to live in their tiny houses.


Choose a tiny house model.

Know where you’ll put your tiny house?  Great!  Browse our tiny house catalogue online and decide which model is the best for you.  Each of our models is customizable: customizations like materials and paint colors are free, while having our designer change the blueprints is an extra fee.

Some of our tiny houses are the road-legal limit of 8 1/2′ wide.  If you’re looking for a tiny house you can tow with you, check out our Lightweight Models for Towing.  We also offer Park Model Tiny Houses at 10′ wide, the Taconic and the Kinderhook.  Park Models are great when you want a little extra elbow room and don’t plan to move your tiny house after it’s put in place.

Don’t want to climb up a ladder to go to bed?  Click here to see our models with a first-floor bed.


Get your finances ready.

B&B’s Tiny Houses on wheels are inspected by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, or the RVIA. Your tiny house will come with an individual seal showing it’s been certified.  Because they’re certified to RVIA standards, our tiny houses are legally considered RVs, and can get RV financing, insurance, and access to RV parks.  Having this certification also helps when explaining to your town’s Planning and Zoning Board exactly what a tiny house is and how it’s certified.

If you’ll use financing, down payments differ based on the financial institution, but they’re generally between 20 and 25%.  If you’ll pay cash, we generally charge 60% up front and 40% when the house is complete.  You’ll need to have this amount saved before you buy a tiny house.

To find out about how much the tiny house you want would cost, try our Instant Estimate Generator.  This will give you a ballpark estimate so you’ll know how much to save.  If you’re not comfortable with your first estimate, you can go back through the Estimator as many times as you’d like, choosing different options.  Here are some suggested financial institutions for getting RV financing for your tiny house.

Keep in mind that the cost of the tiny house itself isn’t the only expense you may have when placing a tiny house.  Depending on your site and what your municipality requires, you may need to have utilities connected, a gravel or concrete pad poured, and anchors installed.  If you’re not towing your tiny house yourself, you’ll need to pay  about $2 per mile for delivery (we’ll connect you with our trusted delivery company).  It’s important to factor in the all-in cost of buying a tiny house before paying a deposit.


Schedule a tiny house design session.

Whether you’d like to make changes to the blueprints of the tiny house or not, a design session is the next step. If the only design changes are your selections for colors, materials and fixtures, these choices are free to make; the cost of the materials you choose will be reflected in your final quote.  If you’ll make changes to the blueprints, we charge a Design Alteration fee before our design session (scroll down past the customization options to see the fee).

Contact us to set up a time for a design session, whether via Skype, phone, or in-person.  If your session is in person, we’ll walk you through any tiny house that we may have at our shop so you can get a feel for the space.  During our design session, we’ll go through, in detail, which options you’d like, and the pros and cons of each depending on your location and how you’ll be using your tiny house.  You’ll have a chance to get your tiny house questions answered as well as learn more about which options are realistic for your living situation.


We’ll create a quote for you and send you a contract.

After your design session, our team will create a quote for your tiny house.  If you need changes to the existing plans, we’ll create a new drawing: this can take a few weeks depending on our design pipeline.

We’ll review your quote and final customization plan (your choices for colors, materials, fixtures, etc.) with you.

When you’re ready to finalize your choices and move forward, we’ll send you a build contract.

When we receive your signed contract and first payment (if you’re paying with cash, 60%; if you’re financing, we’ll need the payment from your financial institution) we’ll start ordering materials for your tiny house.


We’ll build your tiny house.

shou sugi banOur build schedule varies throughout the year: sometimes we can start building a tiny house right away, and other times there will be other projects in the pipeline.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our build schedule.

Trailers take about five weeks to build; your tiny house, depending on its size and level of complexity, should take 6-12 weeks after that depending on our build schedule.  We’ll keep in touch with you during the build process.


Get your site ready.

Tiny House RV Hookups- Power and WaterThe needs of tiny house sites vary greatly.  If you’ll be traveling with your tiny house and parking it at RV Parks, there’s not much you’ll need to do other than reserve your spot.  If you’ll be keeping your tiny house in one place, you’ll need to make sure you can get water and power to your tiny house and waste water away from it.  Depending on the permanency of your tiny house, you may want to have a gravel or concrete pad poured, and lay water and electric lines.  If you’re going solar, you’ll need to contract with a solar company to have your panels installed on your site.


Pick up your tiny house at our shop or have it delivered to your site.

If you’ll be towing your tiny house, here’s a primer on what size vehicle you’ll need.

Those who do not plan to tow their own tiny house may have it professionally delivered to their site.  Contact us for a delivery estimate.  We’ll schedule a time with you to ensure you’re on-site when your house is delivered, and we’ll answer any questions you might have about setting it in place.


Ready to choose a tiny house model?  Check out our Tiny House Designs and then get an Instant Estimate.

Have Questions?  Contact us.

I Spend All Day Every Day Inside A Tiny House. Here’s What I’ve Learned About Small Space Design.

I work in a tiny house.  More specifically, a mobile office.  Here at B&B, our company has grown faster than our factory has, so now a few of us share the 8 1/2′ x 20′ Brodie Mobile Office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  During that time, I’ve learned quite a few things about how to best design a small space for maximum working and living.

Here’s what I’ve learned:


Windows and skylights make a huge difference.

Before moving out to the mobile office, I was working inside the factory in a little room we built into the corner of the warehouse.  This room had windows to the factory but no windows to the outside.  Now that I’m in the mobile office and my desk faces two windows, my quality of life has really improved.  The old office, although it was bigger than the mobile office, felt a bit cave-like, and not in the way of grand echoing caverns; it was more like those tiny spaces spelunkers narrated by David Attenborough have to squeeze their bodies into.  Anyhow, with its tall ceilings, skylights, and windows all around, the tiny mobile office, although smaller than the old office, feels way more spacious.

Both for air exchange and light, it’s nice to have windows on all sides of you.  Opening a window at either side of the house creates a nice breeze. Because you’re surrounded by windows rather than looking at one or two walls with windows, the space feels more expansive and airy than a smaller space.

The take home: In a small space, you’re closer to the windows, so they don’t have to be as big as you’d think to provide a huge amount of light and views. Careful placement of windows to maximize light, view and air exchange makes all the difference. 


Choose your floor color wisely.

This goes for any house, not just tiny houses, but it’s something I’ve learned from this particular tiny house so I thought I’d share it here.  I can’t stress this enough: choose a floor color that’s not going to show every single piece of dirt, dust, sand, mud, piece of grass, and microscopic pebble.  This house was photographed on a day when the snow went up to our knees and we mopped the floor just before the shoot.  If we hadn’t, you’d see all kinds of smudges on it.

The absolute best floor for mud-concealment is this grey one with lots of color variation.  This house (the Arcadia Tiny House) has been exhibited on rainy, muddy days with hundreds of people (and double that number of boots!) walking through and you couldn’t even tell it was dirty.

 

Left: The dark floor of the Brodie gets dirty   Right: The varied-color floor of the Arcadia doesn’t show dirt!

The Take-home: If, like me, one of the things about tiny living that appeals to you is your laziness for cleaning, don’t get a floor that’s going to drive you crazy if you don’t mop it every day!  (The bright side is I only have to mop 140 sq. ft!)


Mobile offices are great for greeting customers outside the work area.

Our workshop has six tiny houses being built at a time, with houses, trucks, deliveries, forklifts, et cetera rolling in and out of our factory doors all day.  We don’t generally like to invite visitors inside this active work environment simply because it’s too much of a liability.  Having the mobile office outside as the face of our company allows us to greet customers in a safe environment, free of sawdust, noise and hazards.

The take home: designing your tiny house is the most important thing– but placement of the tiny house can make or break your experience inside.


More people can fit in an 8 1/2′ x 20′ space than you think without feeling claustrophobic.

We’ve had non-claustrophobic meetings with ten people inside.  The level of claustrophobia definitely depends on the amount of stuff inside the house.  Since this is an office, not a home, and most of our files are digital, not on paper, we really don’t need that much stuff inside the mobile office.  We keep architectural samples, like color chips, siding swatches, and stain samples, but other than that pretty much everything’s digital.

Additionally, the objects that we do have are stored inside the cabinetry so they don’t add to visual clutter.

The take home: we live in a world where you no longer have to have a lot of physical stuff.  In a small space, digitize (and back up!) everything.  One might think closed cabinets make a small space feel smaller than open cabinets, but they’re great for hiding clutter.


Get white noise and air exchange for a shared tiny space.

It’s quiet in the mobile office.  Really quiet.  It’s a side effect of being well-insulated.  So during mealtimes it can be a bit… overwhelming for someone who doesn’t like to hear others chewing.  My favorite white noise generator is Celestial White Noise on YouTube.  Ten hours of a gentle hum that you tune out after a minute and don’t have to hear every time your coworker shifts in their chair.

  

Pictured: the mobile office’s in-wall electric heater, which doesn’t include air exchange

I have hot soup for lunch all the time in the winter.  To make sure the mobile office doesn’t then smell like soup for the rest of the day, I always open the restroom door and turn the extractor fan on after eating a hot lunch.  It only takes a couple minutes to return the air in the house to freshness.

Certain heating and cooling systems also include air exchange (ours doesn’t)– I’d recommend getting that if possible.

The take home: get white noise and an extractor fan. 


tiny home brodie mobile office studioTall ceilings and not too much clutter on the walls really make a space feel bigger.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but I think it’s worth mentioning the tall ceilings inside this tiny mobile office.  In order to be road-legal, the tiny house has to be under 13 1/2′ tall so it can fit under bridges, trees and power lines.  With the inside floor being just over 2′ off the road, there is still room for a taller-than-usual ceiling inside– and it makes a huge difference!

The take home: Be sure to design your tiny space with as much ceiling height as you can. 

 

 

5 Home Design Ideas for Renovating a Small Space

5 Home Design Ideas for Renovating a Small Space

Whether it’s a tiny house or small space, follow these guidelines for maximizing space.

1. Declutter and Add Storage

Add storage everywhere! This is where you can be creative and build storage in unconventional ways.

2. Light colors

Light colors allow for the space to feel fresher and bigger.

3. Windows and Mirrors

Adding natural light will make a space feel more open. By adding windows and placing larger mirrors where natural light hits, you’ll maximize the freshness of your space.

4. Multi-Use Furniture

Space-saving furniture is perfect for a small space as it allows your room to become multi-functional.

5. Vary vertical and horizontal dimensions

If possible, vary the dimensions and finishes in both the horizontal and vertical direction. When done correctly, this helps the space feel less uniform and allows for the eye to wander.

small space furniture tiny house

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