You have too much stuff and a dangerous amount of space begging to be filled with more clutter. Dusty books, never-used gadgets, gear from long-forsaken hobbies, inherited knick-knacks and rollerblades litter every corner. You crave simplicity, you crave a more minimal way of living, you crave something tiny.
Downsizing to a tiny house feels like the little light at the end of your 3,000-square-foot tunnel. It’s a life-changing commitment to minimalism, and it is, well, radical. It’s as nonconformist as someone with a French press can get.
34% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would definitely live in a tiny house or would seriously consider it. These miniature dwellings—usually between 100 and 400 square feet—have gained popularity with the help of HGTV and social media. Blogs like Tiny House Swoon make micro living look enviable and Instagramable. While not yet a trend, fans call it a movement.
But it takes more than career aspirations as a lifestyle blogger to survive this drastic transition. Only the truly committed real estate revolutionaries will follow through.
Luckily, we’ve culled blogs, articles, expert resources and research to offer up this guide so you don’t end up with a truck full of stuff you can’t unload. It’s gonna be difficult, but true minimalism is in your near future.
Are you ready, Henry David Thoreau with a smartphone?
Benefits and Drawbacks of Downsizing to a Tiny House
Let’s be honest, Americans are not racing to abandon the comforts of big living. The average U.S. home takes up more than 2,500 square feet, and only 1% of homes purchased are 1,000 square feet or less.
But if you want to break free from the chains of single-use appliances and the obligations of big house living, tiny houses make life simpler, and even a little less daunting (if you don’t mind taking a shower in your kitchen).
Perks of Tiny Home Living
- With a tiny house, you’ll save money. Downsizing means less upkeep, fewer repairs, fewer utilities, less cleaning and smaller or no mortgage payments. Big houses cost big money, and when you say goodbye to the square footage, you also say goodbye to the costs that come with filling and maintaining that space. A tiny home has a price tag of anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000, depending on if you go DIY or purchase one outright. (FYI: The median home price in the U.S. is nearly $200,000.)
- Tiny homes are also kind to the environment. Beyond money, a tiny home can give you a tiny carbon footprint. The average American home has about 45 light bulbs consuming 639 kWh of electricity annually, and the average American tiny home has about 6 light bulbs consuming 85.2 kWh. The average home releases about 28,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, while a tiny home releases just 2,000 pounds annually.
- Owning a tiny house can be freeing. If that doesn’t sell you, tiny home owners also discover unexpected benefits of owning a tiny home. Take for example, you can move whenever you want, and you “never have to rent a U-Haul.” It comes down to freedom. Freedom from debt, freedom from stuff, freedom from the grind. “Once we settled in (we will refer to the first year as the settling in period) we were able to have the freedom to spend more time doing what we love. During our settling in period—and even now—we live very busy lives despite our life being more simplified,” said one tiny home blogger about the freedom of their lifestyle. “We have been able to focus on the more important things in our lives and give them priority rather than striving after the wind to make money to afford a higher cost of living.”
Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices
However, there are downfalls to extreme downsizing. As the name implies, tiny homes are really, incredibly small and not always doable for families or people who require a lot of space or storage.
- You have to move past the romanticism of micro living. As one writer put it, “Beware the nostalgie de la boue. Small can be a bad fit.”
- You can’t have it all. Realize that you’ll have to make serious sacrifices. You may not be able to have a dishwasher or a clothes dryer. You can’t have a king-sized bed or a walk-in closet. You may not have indoor plumbing or personal space. Entertaining will likely be a challenge.
- Local zoning regulations can throw a wrench in your plans. Xoning regulations have not necessarily caught up with the movement. Many communities are not yet tiny-home friendly, and you are at the whim of local laws.
- Lastly, as some people point out, tiny homes don’t have as much of a bang for your buck as you may think. According to Forbes, little living can cost between $200 to $400 per square foot. Depending on where you live, that can be hefty. The truth is, sometimes micro apartments, carriage houses, RVs and tiny homes are not a lifestyle choice. They are all that people can afford, especially in expensive communities.
You’re Ready to Downsize to a Tiny Home, Now What?
So you have decided to take the plunge. Be forewarned: It’s not something you just do on a whim. You have to plan for goodness sakes. So give yourself time. Some tiny-home owners say it took them an entire year to downsize their possessions to fit inside a tiny home.
“The tiny life doesn’t involve packing 2,000 square feet of stuff into a 200 square foot structure. It is about downsizing your material so you can downsize your requirements,” says Andrew Odom, a tiny liver and writer.
The most difficult part about downsizing is that it’s an emotional process, according to Alex Lehr, a top-five agent in Redwood City, CA.
“The majority of it is sorting, physically and emotionally,” he explains. You’re not just tossing out random stuff but objects with memories attached to them.
“That’s what slows down the process,” he says. “Reliving memories.”
First off, take stock of what you have. Create an inventory so you can see redundancies and inefficiencies. You can also start making notes on the things you currently don’t use, and things that can be replaced with smaller or multi-use items.
With lifestyle obsessions like decluttering, the KonMari Method, Swedish Death Cleaning and hygge (or coziness), minimalism is officially cool. So there is no lack of resources for helping you sort your needs from your wants.
Fitting your wardrobe into a tiny home is a big challenge for many who have made this transition. If you want to decrease the size of your closet, try Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that asks people to wear just 33 items over three months. The stuff you don’t wear? Donate it.
Or give yourself a capsule wardrobe, 20 to 40 flexible and timeless items that can be mixed and matched.
Insider Downsizing Tips Straight From Tiny House Dwellers
Tiny home dwellers love to document their lifestyle (there are dozens of tiny home blogs), so there is plenty of advice about downsizing and enjoying little home life. We’ve pulled some handy tips and tricks from some of them.
- Think of your stuff in terms of two qualifications: Do you love it? Does it have a purpose? One tiny-home owner says that’s how she decided what to keep. Not only did she have to love the item, it had to be functional and useful.
- Go room by room. Prepare to say goodbye to pretty much everything in your formal dining room.
- One tiny-home owner focused on priorities and needs, instead of wants. They also downsized in steps—from a 2-bedroom apartment to a 1-bedroom apartment to a 400-square-foot apartment.
- Have a packing party. The Minimalists developed this scheme to cut down on stuff: Pack up all your possessions. Make it fun, have food and drinks. Make it an event. And then over the next three weeks, unpack only what you need. After those 21 days, you know what’s a necessity and what’s superfluous.
- Staying organized is key. “It does become messy looking very quickly…and the kitchen becomes very hard to use if the dishes are not done twice a day,” according to a resident of a tiny home. So make sure everything has a home and invest in small organizers, like these collapsable storage bags. Rent a storage unit for stowing away Christmas decorations, camping gear and other seasonal needs.
- Remember that downsizing never stops. When you live in a 300-square-foot home, shopping sprees and Costco runs are not realistic. “It’s like putting something in a glass that’s already full. Whenever you buy something, you have to get rid of something else,” said one tiny-home owner.
Start Finding Efficiencies In Your Daily Life
Downsizing is not just about abandoning your earthly possessions as you abandon the pressures of “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s also about finding efficiencies in your tiny home, and enjoying the things you love and need within the confines of a converted shipping container.
1. Digitize, digitize, digitize.
Your tiny home will likely not accommodate your library of books. But you love books and you love reading. So digitize and donate your books to a local library. Buy an e-reader or keep a small collection of the books you love. Convert your Blu-rays and DVDs to iTunes. If you haven’t already gotten rid of your CD collection and video games, convert your discs to digital files (and say hello to 2018).
2. Make note of what you need to replace with smaller, more efficient items.
Always think in terms of multi-use and find efficiency within your space, like using the floor of your loft space as storage or consider building a Swiss-Army Knife kitchen. Take advantage of all your wall space with hooks and shelves.
“In our kitchen, we are building a 3’x2’ seat on wheels that doubles as a comfortable place to sit for guests and can also be moved to the kitchen table for extra seating, all while having storage in the seat,” writes Kendi Castoro & Stennes Austinson of The Minimalist Mansion. They also built their bed frame with drawers underneath. “By incorporating clever storage solutions and multi-functional furniture, your tiny home will feel more organized and less cluttered.”
Get rid of any single-use items and kitchen tools that are considered redundant or ornamental. No, you don’t need an ice cream maker.
Instead of having a handful of coffee-making aparati (grinder, French press, Keurig, cappuccino machine), pick your favorite or find yourself a good ol’ fashioned coffee maker and learn to love the simplicity. Instead of having a whole collection of knives in a massive block on your countertop, invest in a couple Shun chef’s knives and a magnetic knife strip.
And while you may not be able to keep your massive washer and dryer, there are small products out there that can help you maintain your sanity. A half-sink/half-washing machine? A chic mini fridge? An all-in-one breakfast maker? A hand-operated, portable mini washing machine? Yes, those things all exist.
3. Cleverly blend indoor and and outdoor spaces.
Tiny home dwellers also use the outdoors as an extension of their homes. Take the Tiny Canal Cottage, a beautiful, idyllic blog and Instagram account that will inspire jealousy (and probably a little annoyance). The 400-square feet of indoor living space is connected by patios that serve as extensions of their home—all with a Joanna Gaines hipness. Just make sure you decorate your porches, patios, yards and decks with items that are made for the outdoors, like indoor-outdoor rugs, furniture and pillows.
4. Welcome to your new profession—sales!
Lastly, become a salesperson. Not only can you get rid of the stuff that’s weighing you down, you can make some extra cash while doing it.
There are a ton of options for selling your stuff online. Here are some considerations to think about when selling your stuff:
- Learn the finer points of Craigslist. Take notes on what similar items are selling for, and consider using the “or best offer” feature to draw more interest.
- Try out selling apps like OfferUp or Trove. Note that some apps have specialities; Trove, for instance, is for selling furniture. ThredUp and Poshmark will help you sell your clothes.
- Price your item to sell. In this Moneyish blog, consumer analyst Julie Ramhold suggests setting the price at about a third of the retail price.
- Take great photos. They are the most important aspect of selling something online. Consider lighting, background and size. Give your item scale by placing a dollar, a toaster or a car next to it. Opt for simple backgrounds and natural lighting.
- Before you start selling, find out what fees you will be charged through each app. If you want to avoid fees, consider Facebook. You can easily find local “buy, sell, trade” groups near you with a quick search. Plus, you save on shipping.
Or you can rely on a good ol’ fashioned garage sale. One tiny-home owner suggests purchasing a Square to help with all the transactions. Remember to donate what you can’t sell.
And most importantly, don’t get overwhelmed. Yes, downsizing to a tiny home is a massive undertaking. Yes, you will have to give up some possessions and conveniences that you love and enjoy. But the process shouldn’t take love and joy out of life.
Simplicity, downsizing and tiny living don’t have to mean a life of puritanism, austerity and sacrifice.
As Rowdy Kittens blogger, Tammy Strobel, says of her life in a tiny home, “Let’s each take the freedom gained from the purging of too much stuff and too large of spaces and use it to create our true home, one that supports and nurtures us and reminds us of what we value, who we are, who and what we love, how we wish to live our lives, and—just as important—that which we find beautiful and inspiring.”
Article Image Source: (Devin Kleu/ Unsplash)