Thursday, January 26, 2017

Five Common Traits of Tiny House People

TIMELINE NOTE:  I found this post that I wrote in 2014 but, for an unknown reason I never posted it.  It's fun, though, to see where I "was" and where I am now when I read it. 

Tiny houses are awesome.  And all the companies and media outlets who support the tiny house movement, are awesome too.  And all of those people who put their hard earned money, and time, into advancing a way of life that is sustainable and fiscally responsible…..yeah… guessed it……they’re awesome too.

My name is Michelle and a little over a year ago I started building a tiny house on a flatbed trailer in the driveway of my rental home in Sherwood Oregon.  You see, my life has been a series of unfortunate events that has left me facing the second half of my life with no retirement savings. I have been a single mom for 12 years and raised two children without the benefit of child support, or, any support for that matter.  It’s just me and them.  They are in college now and have their entire, amazing, future ahead of them. While looking introspectively at what life has in store for me, I decided that minimizing my foot print would be a good start to an amazing future for myself.

Since I started this “journey to tiny”, I have immersed myself in all things tiny. I have attended numerous networking meetings, watched countless videos, read hundreds of online articles, and talked to dozens of experts. And if you have seen or read anything about tiny houses in the past year you know that this idea of living smaller, has literally exploded.  What was once a backyard secret, is now mainstream media gold. 

But, what you see on the internet and on TV is not exactly reflective of the people behind it. When you peel back the layers of the tiny house hype and media attention, you’ll find some very unique people behind it. And as I seek to find my place in the madness that is this now-not-so-tiny house world I find that they also have a lot in common, I have a lot in common with them:

They are……


It’s hard to build a house with little or no money.  That’s not exactly news.  What is news, however, is how I did it, and how many others do too.  What is unique and yet common amongst the tiny house builders of the world is that they have this burning desire to do this crazy thing and they’ll let nothing get in their way. They stalk craigslist for free materials. They go to garage sales. They take on second jobs. They frequent Rebuilding centers and find ways to re-use materials that was once bound for landfills. They contact companies and ask for sponsorships. They trade.  They barter.  They beg their uncle Bob to help. Tiny house people are the most resourceful people on the planet.


If you drive down any neighborhood in middle class America you’ll often find that all of the houses look pretty much the same. They may very slightly, from one house to the next, but they’re all very similar. Self-built tiny houses are, however, very much a reflection of their owners and their source of inspiration.  There are log cabin style ones, gothic, steam punk, cottage, and even modern.  They are, quite literally, architectural eye candy.  Don’t believe me? Search “tiny house” in Pinterest.  (You’re welcome.)


Tiny houses are divided into two different categories:  ones that roll, and ones that don’t.  But whether or not a tiny house’s’ final destination is unknown, or not; their owners are always thinking about being a responsible steward of the planet and member of their community. Utilizing materials with a sense of style as well as a sense of sustainability, is often a major consideration. Short on water? Energy conserving fixtures and toilets are all the rage!  Want to minimize your draw from the grid?  Solar panels to the rescue!  Mainstream American can certainly learn a thing or two about responsible living from the tiny house community.


Now, let’s peek into the dark side of these tiny little houses…..  For the most part, they’re not exactly “legal” to live in.  And, the reason why their numbers are so elusive is because most tiny house dwellers live somewhat below the radar of local zoning authorities. Now I’m not going to go so far as to suggest that you have to break the law to experience the exhilaration of an adventurous life.  But, if you’re not comfortable with living on the temporary fringes of society (I say “temporary” because laws are changing as we speak) then tiny house living is not for you.  If you wait a few years, as society finally realizes the benefits of tiny living, and as zoning rules change to support them, I’m sure that finding a parking spot for your 8 ft wide by 24 foot long tiny house won’t be a challenge.  But today, it’s an all-out adventure ride.


I not only hesitate to admit that I am one of those awesome people I spoke about earlier, but I am humbled by so many who do so much more than I ever can. There are tiny house communities being built for the homeless and disadvantages. There are planning commissions re-writing rules that govern our communities. There are movers and shakers and people with influence who change laws and pave the way for those who come behind them.  And for them, I am thankful.  All tiny house people, are.  When you have reduced your possessions down to the very basics, when you have prioritized your life in such a way that you can literally feel the love of those around you, you are thankful.  You know that you don’t need 6 mugs for a cup coffee.  You know that probably only two will do.  And you are thankful for one.

Tiny house people are awesome. They live in little spaces and live resourceful, creative, responsible, appreciative, and adventurous lives. And companies like American Standard, and many others, who support the tiny house movement by providing materials and support for building them, they’re awesome too…..


  1. Hi Michelle,
    So glad you found this post! Thanks for sharing it with us tiny house enthusiasts. I've been following the movement and building my own for almost three years now and your Empty Nest is still one of my favorites!

  2. Hi Michelle, I met you this weekend at the Diedricksen CAFAM workshop. I wanted to thank you again for all the info, and knowledge you freely share. You are a wealth of inspiration, a light, and a genius in my book. I found it interesting that I have also been sketching floorplans since very young (13). At 13, I wanted to be an architect so I could build my dream home someday. I put sketches aside for years to do the mom role. And just as you said, reality is always different than what we I suspect my "future me" dream house will be much smaller than I anticipated as a teen but equally dreamy. Good luck to you in all your endeavors!!!

    1. Thank you very much! Hugs from Oregon and Good Luck! May all your tiny dreams come true! :o)~