On Going Tiny: Why we decided building a tiny house was right for us

Renee’s and my decision to go tiny did not arrive overnight. Several years of life events, decisions, and non-decisions lead us to believe that building a tiny house was the right choice. Below are our reasons On Going Tiny.

Reason #1) We want to live in a way that forces us to interact and have more quality time for each other.

Since 2010, either both or one of us has been in graduate school. Graduate school = Legal indentured servitude to your work both day and night, weekends, holidays… basically ALL the time. Since there are only 24 hours to a day, and we weren’t about to sacrifice (more) valuable sleep to just function, this equals less quality time to spend on each other or a marriage. Forget having hobbies or finding time to clean your house- you understandably have to be committed to you research if you ever want to graduate. Fortunate for us, when you’re both going through similar circumstances it’s easier to understand the sacrifices that sometimes must be made, and to be cognizant of making the most of any “free” time you purposely create or thrown your way.

Reason #2) We want more margin.

As grad students, you do not make any money- you receive just enough to scrape by. My sister Melanie and I was raised by my 100% disabled veteran father who only had retirement and disability pension. We lived paycheck to paycheck, and trust me I know it plain sucks. At the same time, my father Bill believed that receiving a good education would set my sister and me up for life. He sold any nice personal belongings he had and took out loans to have us go to a private school from elementary through middle school. Bill’s sacrifices paid off because high school turned out to be mostly a joke where I already learned everything there before 8th grade. That aside, seeing and knowing his personal struggles, Renee and I want to maintain a good debt-to-income ratio, or at least some sense of financial security.

Both of my parents went through bankruptcy twice, so I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to college if it wasn’t for working my butt off for a presidential scholarship. During my early grad school years, I had to be mostly independent financially which meant I did the stereotypical ‘sleeping on an air mattress (that deflated nightly) in a mostly furniture-less apartment while eating Ramen noodles’ lifestyle, and still BARELY paid my bills. We don’t want to live this way if we do have to!

We are currently very blessed to live with Renee’s parents so we can be virtually rent-free while in grad school and save up to build a tiny house. We know however at some point we must ‘fly the nest.’ When it is that time to go, a tiny house means less utility and maintenance costs, sometimes no rent, and that you already own your home (no mortgage!). This is also a ‘win’ for the environment since you are presumably using less natural resources for a smaller space.

Reason #3) More margin means more investment in the future.

By having more margin, you have more money to invest in retirement, savings, experiences, or causes that matter most to you. Renee and I love the idea of being able to afford to travel. A portion of the money that would normally go toward typical utility/housing costs could instead be invested in a travel fund or anything considered of value to you.

Reason #4) We want to protect ourselves from the housing market fall-out.

The bursting of the USA housing bubble is believed to be, at least in part, a major reason for the financial crises we had several years ago (Gorton, 2009). The stock market crashed in 2008 which led to a recession (Farmer, 2015). People’s current perceptions of the housing market can be irrational and misguided (perhaps us included!), which don’t help the situation (Jin et al., 2014). There were warning signs before that market crash, and we can’t help but feel unsettled now either. Some were claiming a bubble is ahead last year, and currently some cite mostly optimism in the housing market.

While the housing market continues to figure out which direction it wants to go, we want to play it safe and build a tiny house not subject to market fluxes and that we don’t plan nor need to sell. If another crash ever occurs (which hopefully it never does!), the feeling of home ownership will make us feel less psychologically stressed (Manturuk et al., 2012) and will make less of a financial impact.

Reason #5) There is a growing ‘House Bomb that needs to be defused.

Essentially the number of people living in a household is going down while the size of houses are increasing. This housing bomb is leading to further environmental destruction. We need to stop trying to keep up with ‘The Jones’ and think about what demands the housing is making on the environment. We believe the tiny house movement is a positive direction towards defusing the housing crisis by encouraging people to live within their means, both in terms of smaller, practical housing size and only having so much space to buy and place stuff you just don’t need!

Reason 6) We don’t know what our timeline is and want the flexibility to move.

Renee and I are textbook examples of planners. We want to know what we’re doing next Friday at 7PM, and also 2 to 10 years from now. However, reality is that you can’t always predict where you’re going and change is the only constant. We don’t see ourselves staying in West Virginia with our current and future occupations. We strongly like the option of just being able to wheel our house with us if it turns out we’re meant to live down south or out west once we’re both done with grad school. If we’re meant to stay in WV that’s okay too, but at least we planned for possible travel.

And Finally

Reason 7) Less house (and ‘stuff’) means more time to spend outdoors! We realize the fact that since we have never lived a long-time in a small space before we may at least initially feel really confined. Being in many wildlife field technician positions over the years, I have lived in very rustic and unique conditions for 4 months at a time, so anything with a permanent roof and available utilities sounds great and a makes a tiny house seem doable; only time will tell! We hope to make the outdoors an extension of our living space, especially if we consciously rid ourselves of many material goods we can just live without (nor have the space for). Renee and I love horticulture, gardening, and really doing anything outside, so I imagine being in a 8 ft. wide box will encourage that. We additionally think having a tiny house will help us to incorporate it into the surrounding environment with less negative impact.

We hope you were able to identify with some of the reasons we chose this path, most of which are inter-related. If you’re not sure right now “the tiny house thing” is right for you, don’t feel bad in waiting until you know for sure! A decision to do nothing could be smarter than making one to ‘just get out of the hallway’ of indecision.

We want to see people moved to live Tiny By Choice.  We “stayed in life’s hallway” until enough circumstances and doors opened to make us confident in moving forward. Going tiny can be radical lifestyle change for some, and we’ve been gradually getting us prepared to tiny living the last few months. We plan to share in the near future some of the steps we been taking, and hope to become good examples of Tiny Stewards as life goes on!

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