What We Wanted in our Tiny House and Why

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post for Tiny House Listings titled "How to Know What You Want in Your Tiny House."

In the post I discussed some of the important questions everyone should ask themselves before they ever buy a trailer or pick up a hammer and nail. I kept that post pretty general to allow people to see themselves in the answers, but I'd like to address some of those questions for my own project. It was very helpful for me to see the ways other tiny housers built and lived in their homes when we were building so I am hoping that our decisions can help others as well.

Here are some of the decisions we made and why.

  • Our bed. We chose to have a loft bed with a ladder. The reason we did this was very simple: that was the way the plans were drawn. It really doesn't get any more complex than that. We decided we wanted to use Tumbleweed Tiny House plans (at the time, Jay Shafer was still running the company) and the Tarleton model we chose had a loft. We did spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the ladder and what kind of bed to put up in the loft, but the actual loft was a simple decision. 
  • Our kitchen. Our indoor kitchen is very simple. We use portable burners and don't have an oven, a sink, or any sort of refrigeration. We wanted to keep things as simple as possible to start. We knew we could always add these things if we felt we needed them but it would be harder to invest and never use them. We also wanted to enjoy cooking outdoors so we built a small outdoor kitchen space as well.
  • Our bathroom. Our indoor bathroom was placed precisely where the Tarleton plans said it should go. We bought a 30 inch fiberglass shower enclosure and built the bathroom walls around it. We also opted for a composting toilet because our home was designed to be off the grid. 
  • Our entertainment. This was actually one of the easiest decisions for us. The act of downsizing and simplifying was very important for our process so we knew we wouldn't have a TV or a large collection of books. Instead, we have handheld devices and a tablet where we can read books on Kindle or watch TV shows and movies digitally. 
  • Our hobbies. It was very important that we were able to do the things we love in our tiny house. We included a wall mounted guitar hanger so Matt could play music. He also wanted to be able to use and store a large gaming laptop. Everything else, like our camping equipment, is kept in our barn. We were really lucky that our land came with an old barn and we used it a lot over the years. 
  • Our work. Matt and I both work from home. As a freelance writer everything I do is conducted on a laptop and online. Articles and invoices are all submitted electronically and all of my research is done through the internet. I wanted my job to be location independent so I could work from anywhere. Matt has a remote working arrangement with his company and can do most of it from a tablet computer. Much of his work is done via conference calls. 
  • Our systems. Part of the process for building a tiny house for us was to simplify our lives as much as possible to prove to ourselves that we cold live self-sufficiently. We wanted to see how little money this lifestyle took, so we began with extremely simple systems. Our solar power keeps our laptops, lights, and devices running. We planned on building a rain catchment system but our spring has proven to be very reliable. We haven't decided yet if we are going to upgrade system or not.

There were a few other necessary things we needed to take into account. For example, when Piglet couldn't navigate the ladder at first we had to think quickly to create a way for her to get up to the loft and sleep with us.

The beauty of tiny living is that everything you do is fluid. If we decided tomorrow that we wanted to add a heater to the house we could easily do that. We know how we built it and we know where to cut to install such a thing. We could add a sink or a stove if we wanted to. We could even build a second tiny house to try out new techniques and layouts.

Every single choice we made building and moving into this tiny house was deliberate.


  1. I love your tiny house. One of these days we will show up on your doorstep to see it in person. :)

  2. I love that y'all thought about y'alls bed as well. I mean, ours is vastly different but we had many conscious thoughts about it before ever building. I wish every dreamer would consider what they want prior to building. It is an essential step.

  3. Just include the things you really love. People can have a really fabulous lifestyle with a lot less than they think. I've been living in 120 sq ft (small camper) for the past 4 years and miss it when I'm not home! If something new comes in, something old must go out, there is just no storage room for extras! I have the crafting supplies I need, all of my regalia, a few books I really love, clothing, a few sentimental treasures, and essentially all the "stuff" I need to be content. When I build my permanent tiny house, I will expand to about 200 sq ft...but that is considering wheel chair space as I get older. Still a tiny house by tiny house standards lol!

  4. oh Moving day i understand that did it a little over a month ago. it is exciting and a bit sad at the same time. good luck with the moving, hope everything goes smoothly and everyone stays safe!

  5. How did you accommodate your cat when it couldn't handle the ladder? We have 5 cats, 2 of whom sleep with us and I can't imagine not having them in bed. One is huge, 18 lbs, his name is Sasquatch because of all his extra toes when he came to us as a kitten but the rest of him grew into the name. He has some trouble jumping because of the foot deformity, but is very heavy to lift, so I am interested in your solution. A pulley system or dumbwaiter? I am disabled and would have a lot of trouble with a loft, but my husband (who has a bachelor's in engineering from RPI and a master's from Rutgers) and I are discussing possible solutions if we go the loft route. We have seen tiny houses with stairs and considered a stair lift, but they require a minimum width of stair. I still think a pulley with a sling chair might work. Otherwise we would just go with a first floor bedroom, even a murphy bed might work, no one is using the living room while we sleep, except that is where the other 3 cats sleep. We often have 3 cats sleeping on the couch or 3 on the bed, but maximum occupancy seems to be 3 cats on one piece of furniture.

    1. We built platforms - or small shelves - on the wall above the sofa. Piglet can jump from the floor to the sofa to the back of the sofa and onto each platform to reach the loft. It took her just a few hours to figure them out. You can see them in our video tour. There is a tab at the top of the page. Another solution would be to build ramps that go from your furniture to your loft so he can walk up on his own.

  6. How do you manage without a sink to clean pots and dishes? Does the waste water go into the toilet? When we've camped we've just used a dishpan and water heated on the Coleman stove, but the water has to be emptied and I wouldn't think you'd fling the water out the door for fear of attracting animals. Curious how you work it.

    1. We usually wash dishes outdoors just like you might when you camp. We have collapsible bins that we can use for wash water and a dish rack. We remove as much solid matter as possible - food scraps and such - that can go in the compost bin. Then we wash the dishes just like normal. We built an artificial wetland where we put all gray water. Our toilet is a dry composting toilet so no water is used at all. http://www.120squarefeet.com/2012/09/gray-water-treatment-and-artificial.html

      If we wash dishes indoors we can do the same thing but try to keep from sloshing water anywhere. It is a little more of a challenge, but doable. We only have to do that if it is raining. And if it is raining we might go out to dinner anyway.

  7. I am loving your blog! My little family and I are looking into yurts and it's so great to see how other people thrive in little homes.


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