Here's what living in a tiny house is really like, according to people who traded their homes for minimalism
Tiny houses are on trend right now, but while the minimalist lifestyle has benefits, it also brings challenges. Tiny houses can help people live debt free, but living in tight quarters can also create unexpected problems that can seem magnified in a tight space. Here's what life is really like living in a tiny house, from the good to the bad. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Tiny houses are painted as a minimalist utopia. And while many tiny home dwellers love the lifestyle that brings, it doesn't come without a few challenges. Tiny houses have their perks — they're both environmentally and budget friendly. But living in such tight quarters can create unexpected problems, like difficult zoning laws, easier wear and tear, taking care of compost toilets, and quick messes, to name a few. Tiny houses may have their appeal, but they're not the right fit for everyone. There are a few things to consider before plunging into such a small space. So what does the reality look like versus the perception? Here's what life is really like living in a tiny home — the good and the bad.SEE ALSO: 35 incredible tiny homes from around the world DON'T MISS: We lived in an Airbnb tiny home for a week — and it was completely different than what we expected The roots of tiny living date back to the 18th century in the days of Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond, but tiny houses have been a rising trend in the past five years.
Source: Curbed In 2013, the Caravan Tiny House Hotel opened in Portland, Oregon, and reality TV shows Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters debuted the following year, putting tiny living in a national spotlight.
Source: Curbed Over the past three years, zoning laws and nonprofits have been passed throughout various parts of the US to help relax regulations for tiny houses.
Source: Curbed Tiny homes have plenty of pros — they're more environmentally friendly, you can live on the go, and you save money.
But when problems pop up in a tiny space, they can seem magnified. In the span of two weeks, the bloggers behind "Wife Me and Tea," dealt with a leaking A/C unit, bathroom leak, and a broken toilet fan when they lived in their tiny home. They wrote in their blog that it was stressful in a small space.
For some, it's a matter of affordability.
"Here, on the inside, we have found small not so beautiful after all," wrote tiny home dweller Gene Tempest in The New York Times. "Like the silent majority of other middling or poor urban dwellers in expensive cities, we are residents of tiny homes not by design, but because it is all our money can rent," she wrote.
Source: The New York Times Some tiny home dwellers buy their home outright, while others build and design them from scratch to meet their needs. This gives them a level of customization, but it can come with difficulties.
When tiny home resident Jenna was building her tiny house, there weren't many resources available. "Most of my planning/building was achieved through trial and error," she told Business Insider.
It was ultimately worth it for her because she's debt free. She credits this to the low expenses associated with tiny living.
She loves having the ability to move her home whenever she needs to relocate. "Financial freedom, mobility, and being a homeowner (without a loan) in my 20s are just a few of the benefits I've received from going tiny," she said.
While it's nice to be able to move your home around, zoning laws can make it difficult. According to Thrillist, some zoning laws make tiny living illegal — even if you buy land, there's the possibility it's illegal to build a tiny home on it.
Tim and Sam of Tiffany the Tiny Home bought their tiny home instead of building it. "The preparation process was really just downsizing and mentally preparing to live in less space," they told Business Insider.
Within 90 days, they got rid of most of their belongings and cut out the excess. "It wasn't terribly hard to do this," they said. "And we knew we didn't use 75% of the space we were living in at the time."
But, that means they had to downsize sentimental items and memorabilia. "We both loved keeping mementos and collecting souvenirs from our travels, and that's something we had to sacrifice," they said.
"We have enough room to keep what we call the 'nonnegotiables,' but we definitely parted ways with some of our memory items," they said.
"We compromised in our travels by sending ourselves postcards and keeping them in a small album in our bookshelf." They added that it's cost and space efficient, and helps them remember their most cherished trips.
If they do bring something back from a trip, it's small — like this tiny fair door.
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home "I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard to not buy things," Tim wrote. "I know eventually I will get rid of some of these things I brought back as everything breaks or takes up space for something else."
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home They moved Tiffany to a new place for the first time last year, and it involved quite a bit of prep work. They first had to get Tiffany off of the cinder blocks and, like an RV, unhook the water, sewage, and electric.
But what wasn't expected was dealing with some plumbing issues. They had to reroute their toilet pipe into their main pipe so it wouldn't drag during transportation of their home.
They also had to stow movable items, childproof cabinets and doors, and strap down movable objects.
Another challenge they've faced is being intentional with their "me" time. "Being in a small space for us means spending more time outdoors," they said. "We do love each other, but everyone needs personal time to relax and recharge."
Sometimes, they need to get creative about where and when the personal time takes place. However, there's a plus side: this time becomes sacred. Because they're so intentional with it, they appreciate it that much more.
Jenna also found a few challenges to living small. "I don't have guests over very often and I had to make some compromises when it comes to creature comforts," she said.
For example: a limited wardrobe. "There have been several occasions when I curse my tiny closet and the lack of contents within," she wrote in a blog post.
"For example, one summer I was invited to several weddings and I was photographed wearing the exact same thing to each and every one. It was embarrassing. I felt unfashionable and poor, and I'm neither of those things."
Her tiny house is also restricted by weight, which is determined by axle size. "I can't add a marble countertop or a tile bathroom to my house," she wrote. "I have to think about every single item I bring in to my home. Often, when I'm deciding between two things I choose the one that weighs the least."
It can be easy and fast to clean a tiny house...
...but they also get dirty quickly. "I can turn my house from a sterile hospital room into a disgusting dumpster in a matter of seconds," Jenna wrote. "One bowl of cereal falls off the counter… my house is a wreck. It's laundry day and I'm hanging clothes inside to dry because it's raining outdoors…total chaos. My dog roams in with muddy paws….game over."
"I feel like I'm constantly cleaning, and that's a big con for me," Jenna wrote.
And a loft bed is pretty cool, but making it is not. "I'm pretty sure I deserve an Olympic medal for making my bed every day in just 40 inches of space," she wrote.
It's also difficult to avoid smells in a tiny space, whether they're good or bad. "A single scented candle can be overwhelming," Jenna wrote. "Opening the windows helps a bit, but some smells – such as burnt toast or a campfire – will imprint themselves on my curtains, clothes, and sheets for days on end."
And while a tiny home leaves less space for clutter, it also means that you have to stay more organized.
And regular-sized pieces can seem larger than life in a tiny home. "Embarrassing, ordinary objects like the hamper are empowered in small spaces; they become tyrants," wrote Tempest. "In a larger home, this perfectly functional item might recede quietly into a closet or laundry room."
Source: The New York Times Tempest added that things aged faster than in her previous homes, and that their tiny home is characterized by shabbiness. "Everything in our tiny house is worked over more, used harder," she wrote.
Source: The New York Times A tiny house means you'll no longer have a full kitchen — a mini fridge and lack of counter space can be a problem if you like to cook. "I see tiny houses with mini-fridges and a two-burner stove top with no oven," Justin, a Tiny Home dweller, told Thrillist. "And I think, 'what the hell do you cook?'"
Your stove might look like this.
Because they have a tight kitchen, usually only Tim or Sam cooks at the same time. But, they find it fun.
"It calls for high efficiency, and cleaning as you go to work with the space," Sam said. "It makes you appreciate the process to chop one thing at a time. We love using the grill because it's fast and we get to utilize our outside space as well."
Storage space is also hard to come by — every inch needs to be maximized.
Lighting should also be strategic in a tiny home. "Remember this is a tiny home and believe it or not there's a thing as too much light and the size of the bulb should be considered based on your fixture," Tim wrote.
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home He said you don't want to see the light bulb while looking at the fixture because it can cause stress on the eyes in such a small space.
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home Fixture size also needs to be taken into account. "The fixtures sizes in Tiffany are on point," Tim wrote. "They are not too big for the tiny space but they are not so small that it's not functional."
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home The bathroom might also be a little different — most tiny homes use compost toilets. While these help with conservation, they do need to be emptied periodically. Jenna wrote in her blog it can also be a little awkward to explain to guests how to use one.
Tim and Sam also found that the small size of their bathroom soaks up more moisture. "Since we have a vent that leads directly outside for the exhaust fan, it’s that much easier for moisture to get into our bathroom," Tim wrote in a blog post.
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home They ended up solving the problem by getting a dehumidifier, which removes moisture from the air and reduces the sulfur smell from the water.
Source: Tiffany the Tiny Home "Perhaps the biggest downside of living alternatively is that many people will judge you as a radical (or even ridiculous) person, just because you aren't participating in what society has deemed to be 'normal,'" Jenna said.
Overall, Tim and Sam found that living tiny was the right move, benefiting their financial and mental health. They've experienced less anxiety and will be mortgage-free in two more years.
"Being free of excess allows us to focus inward and make changes to live a conscious and rewarding life with financial independent freedom," they said.
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Residents of the Orlando Lakefront community let Insider into their homes to show what tiny house...Residents of the Orlando Lakefront community let Insider into their homes to show what tiny house living is really like. Some of it isn't so glamorous. Lofts, which are an important feature in tiny houses, can be cramped, hot, and hard-to-access. Appliances like stoves and bathroom sinks are considerably smaller than what many homeowners are used to. Visit Insider.com for more stories. As the tiny house movement sweeps across the US, many are divided on if the downsized life is for them. While some relish in the idea of getting rid of most of their belongings and living simply, others can't imagine squeezing their lives into a space smaller than 300 square feet. So, what is it really like to live in one of these tiny homes? Residents of the Orlando Lakefront, a tiny house community in Florida, welcomed Insider into their homes to show what tiny house living is really like — and it's not always glamorous.As all tiny houses are narrow by design, living spaces can be cramped. Most tiny houses are just eight and a half feet wide because that is the maximum width a vehicle can be to legally drive on roads. But the smallest spaces in most tiny houses are the lofts, and some can feel quite enclosed. A tiny house loft is not for claustrophobic people. Homeowners told Insider they have to crawl in and out of bed because it's impossible to stand up in the spaces. If the small space doesn't get to you, the heat that gets trapped in lofts may. Heat rises, so lofts are often the hottest spot in any tiny house, and that's why you'll find fans, windows, and other cooling systems in them. It's easy for such a tiny space to get untidy fast, according to some owners. Amanda Burger lives in her 270-square-foot home with her two small children, and she said it can get difficult to keep up with the mess. "I joke that it's one big Rubik's cube," Burger told Insider. "It's all about constantly changing things." It can be quite difficult to get into a tiny house loft, especially for people who are not able-bodied. Makeshift staircases and ladders can be seen in these homes. Those who cannot climb a ladder or staircase have to design their tiny house with a bedroom on the ground floor, which might not be the best use of the small space. Some homeowners use lofts for storage instead of sleeping, but it can be quite the eyesore. Lofts can double as great storage spaces, but often they are difficult to access. Some homes require taking out a ladder. Other tiny house owners opt for storage containers but struggle to find a place to them. Elizabeth Silva, a tiny house owner in Florida, said she struggled to find space for her belongings when she first moved in. "You don't really know [what will fit] until you actually move in," Silva said. She decided to use storage containers, which she placed on top of her Murphy bed. Silva said she plans to get a curtain to hide the containers. While tiny houses are known for their innovative storage options, those spaces can still be extremely small. Burger's small closet space is actually part of a larger storage compartment that is housed in a staircase. The bathroom sinks can be considerably smaller than those found in regular-sized homes. Although some tiny houses have full sinks and even vanities, others can only fit small appliances and fixtures. Appliances in the kitchen are also smaller. Cooking for a family may be difficult on these two burners. Many tiny houses do not have a typical four-burner stove. Planning a tiny house can be difficult, and sometimes you end up with design quirks, like having a bed right next to your kitchen refrigerator. Tiny houses are all about compromise. In this tiny house in the Orlando Lakefront community, a bunk bed was placed next to the kitchen, which eliminated the space for a living room. However, the bunk bed did create more sleeping areas for guests. ... or like this toilet that's right next to a door that opens out on to the yard. This bathroom may be cute, but the bizarre design quirk could cause an awkward moment for some guests. In case of disaster, like a hurricane, these straps are all that keeps your house from being completely destroyed. Tiny houses are considerably more vulnerable to natural disasters than normal-sized homes with foundations. These homes can only withstand 45 mph winds, so hurricanes are especially dangerous. 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A regular-sized house in the US must meet certain building codes, which include regulation plumbing, electrical, and mechanical features so that they are considered safe for residents. These codes weren't in place for Gilley's tiny house, so her contractor was not legally in the wrong. The outside of Gilley's house was also built with indoor wood. It will need to be replaced. While Gilley's house on the outside looks like a perfect tiny home, it's actually a prime example of how things can go wrong without proper oversight. Indoor materials were used for her outdoor siding, which will be easily damaged in the Florida weather. In all, Gilley has paid an extra $40,000 to make fixes. "Because it's not code-enforced, you have to watch out," Gilley told Insider. "You can't trust that anyone knows what they're doing because it's still so new." Like Gilley, Li-Mor Raviv has also had trouble with getting her home built properly. Here, she's standing in the spot where her tiny house was supposed to be parked over a month ago, but it's not finished yet. Raviv's tiny house was supposed to be finished and moved into this spot at the Orlando Lakefront community on September 1. More than four weeks later, Raviv's home still is not finished, and she's living in nearby Airbnbs. "It's been hard, but there's a reason for it," Raviv told Insider. "It will be a very good place when I'm in it." Her contractor keeps running into issues. Many people think building a tiny house would be easier because it's smaller, but the truth is that the process is just as difficult. Read more: I visited one of the first tiny house communities in the US. Here are the 8 most surprising things I learned. 6 owners of tiny homes reveal how much they spend each month on housing I visited one of the first tiny house communities in the US. Here are the 8 most surprising things I learned.