It has already been 12 months and counting since my wife Aston and I moved into our tiny house for the first time to experience what tiny house living is all about. In this post I want to sum up the year, the experiences, both good and bad, and what we have learnt along the way about living in a tiny house full time.
What we love most about living in a tiny house
The dream to build a tiny house and live simply has been a dream of mine for many years and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to finally pursue it. I can honestly say that Aston was not as keen as I was to build and live tiny but was agreeable to give it all a go which I cannot thank her enough for!
Here’s what we love most about living in a tiny house and why:
It has reduced the financial pressure of life because our bills are now so low.
This has enabled Aston to be a full time mum and allowed me to choose my work based on enjoyment rather than choosing a job based on pay alone. This has been incredibly freeing and allowed both of us to spend more time together with our gorgeous baby boy which we feel is the most important thing in our lives.
We are more connected to nature and now have a positive impact on the environment as opposed to harming the environment like most homes do.
Living in a small space amongst nature naturally encourages a greater connection with your surroundings. It’s extremely hard to put some experiences in life into words but there is something powerful about feeling connected to nature.
By living off solar power, collecting all of our own water and composting all of our own waste we now have a positive impact on the environment and feel incredibly good about it. Living sustainably from natures resources is unbelievably rewarding and the great thing is, it’s no longer difficult or “woo woo”. The information and resources are available to everyone. It only takes a bit of time and the willingness to learn to make it happen. And once you’ve learnt the basics it’s actually really easy to do.
We are closer as a family and are more connected.
Living in a small space forces connection with those who you live with. For us this has meant we have become even closer as a family. Our son, Avan was born half way through our first 12 months in the tiny house and it has meant that we have become even closer as a family.
The sad part about many large family homes is that people are easily able to separate themselves from others by going into a room when they are upset with somebody else rather than addressing the issue and talking about it. You don’t have to look far to realise that this has created many issues within families. In a tiny house you can’t run or hide from any family issues. It forces you to deal with them straight away which has profound impacts on creating strong relationships and a happy home.
We spend more quality time together.
By having less financial pressure because our bills are so low we can now work less and can therefore spend more quality time together. The upkeep and maintenance on a tiny house is also incredibly small so there’s very little time on the weekend wasted cleaning the house, mowing lawns, cleaning a thousand windows, cleaning gutters and every other household job you can think of. Our tiny house takes no more than about 30 minutes a week to maintain.
We have been able to move to our dream location.
Because tiny house living Is so affordable and you don’t need to own the land where you park (as most people rent the land from property owners) you have the ability to live anywhere you would like. Your dream location is no longer out of reach! For a lot of people their dream location quite often comes with a large price tag but when you live tiny and only rent a small piece of land you have the option to live anywhere.
It was my dream to live in Australia’s south west in the Margaret River Region. Most parts of the region are very expensive to buy property but armed with a tiny house we now live within the region for a fraction of the cost.
Tiny living expenses.
When we lived in Perth, W.A in a large family home our household costs (rent & utilities) were about $2,000 per month. Now in the tiny house they are about $350 per month. Yes we have spent about $6,500 on a solar system, a water pump and filters to get to that point but it does mean that after 5 years we will have paid for our setup and we will be completely bill free (apart from renting the land where we park).
The biggest challenges when living in a tiny house
Living in a tiny house has not all been rainbows and lollipops. There have also been some challenges. For anyone who has ever moved house and moved to a new area, state or country, you know that it is never easy and smooth sailing. Moving into a tiny house is no different.
There were a range of challenges that we experienced. Here are the main ones:
Living Off The Grid
The last year has been our first experience of living off the grid so it goes without saying that it has been a steep learning curve! Especially in the first few months whilst we were still finding our feet and getting use to our new way of life.
There were times when we had water pressure issues and were struggling to work out why. Over the course of about a week the water pressure went from perfectly fine to run all taps in the house to not being enough pressure to engage the instantaneous gas hot water unit.
I was perplexed for days until I had a thought one day that maybe the water filters had become dirty and blocked to the point that it was slowing the flow of water. I removed a filter to see if my theory was correct and sure enough the water began to blast out of the taps inside. I now know when the water pressure begins to drop off that I need to replace all of the water filters.
We also experienced a lack of power during winter when we had several days of rain and cloud as there just wasn’t enough sun during the day to charge our batteries back up to full. This was very stressful at the time. Initially we didn’t have a generator as well which amplified the stress. We quickly purchased a generator which solved all of our power problems during those cold winter months. We now have more than enough power all year round.
Before living in a tiny house I had only ever composted food scraps and garden waste so taking the leap of faith to using a composting toilet was at first a little scary. I mean who really wants to handle their own shit for fun?
Initially this process was a challenge for us both, especially my wife, but after a couple of months of using the compost toilet it became just as easy as any other toilet. We learnt quickly that there is no smell as long as you put enough cover material on after you have done your business. The cover material we use is hardwood sawdust but it can be peat moss, wood chips, coconut coir or a range of other organic products. If you want to learn more about composting make sure you read the The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to use a composting toilet.
The hardest part to get use to is when you have to empty the toilet buckets into a larger pile or bin outside. As I’m sure you can imagine the smell can be quite strong and it’s not something you want to be doing If you have a weak stomach. At first this was the biggest challenge for me and on multiple occasions I found myself questioning my decision to off the grid. Is this really worth it? What I am doing? Is the potential benefits of this process actually worth it?
After the 12 months of this process and now having been able to use our first batch of home-made soil I can honestly say that the process is worth the effort if you appreciate gardening and/or doing your bit to help the environment. The soil quality that comes from this process is unbelievable. We have planted out a range of fruit trees in it and they have taken off. As I’m sure you know, good soil is hard to get and can cost a lot in large quantities so having your own that is better quality than almost anything you can buy and for free is an amazing benefit that’s worth the effort.
Drying clothes in winter
We struggled to dry clothes in winter as we didn’t have an undercover are outside to put a clothes line. Instead we hung our our washing on our big washing line outside when the weather was good and when it was bad we had a small clothes airer that lived inside. It was small and compact enough to be moved around, stored easily and to not pose too much of a problem but it was still inconvenient and annoying working around it in winter.
So next time around I would definitely add an undercover area outside where clothes can be dryed easily in winter. This not only gives you more floor space but it also reduces condensation on your windows inside as well.
What has living tiny taught us?
- More stuff doesn’t make you happier. Most of us know this intellectually but it is another thing to actually experience it by living simply in a tiny house. It will change the way you think!
- Living in suburbia you are getting incredibly ripped off for power, water and gas. We’ve gone from household bills of around $2,000pm to about $350pm. Yes our solar system and water setup did cost about $6,500 but it means we can pay for this in less than 5 years and then live bill free thereafter. Off grid technology is becoming more and more affordable. It just takes a bit of research and effort to save big.
- The real value of clean water, power and gas. When you live off grid and run out of power, water or gas you very quickly come to appreciate the true value of them.
- Living simply does make you more happy. There’s many reasons for this but the main reason is that you have less room in a tiny house and you therefore have no option but to own less stuff. Owning less possessions frees your mind from a lot of thinking, worry and pre-occupation. Think back to a time when you gave a whole load of things away to the salvos or just took a whole heap of stuff to the tip. How good did it feel? Owning less gives you mental and physical freedom that can only be truly understood through personal experience.
Could you see yourself living in a tiny house long term?
Short answer: Yes, but……….
I’ve honestly really enjoyed living in our tiny home over the last 12 months but with the birth of our son 7 months ago we are slowly getting to the point where it will no longer work for our growing family. If it was just the two of us or if I was a single guy then I could definitely see myself living tiny indefinitely.
What would you do differently next time?
If I was to start my entire tiny house experience over again from scratch there would be a couple of things that I would do differently next time around:
- I would add slightly more battery storage to our off grid solar system so that it is able to handle 5 days of autonomy (Ie. 5 days of power supply when there is no sun due to rain and cloud) instead of our current 3 days. I would also buy a generator before moving in so that in the event that anything was to break down or if we experienced terrible weather we would always have power.
- I would upgrade our constant pressure water pump to one with a slightly higher flow and head rating as ours is at its limit with our situation. As we draw water from a dam our supply line is about 30 metres long which is near the limits of our pump. It is also about 5-6 metres in height difference from the dams water level to our shower head which is the highest point the water has to reach (this is called ‘head’. Every water pump has a rating that lets you know what the maximum head is).
- I would build a deck and an awning over it to give us an outdoor space. I would do this for 2 reasons:
- It is nice to have an undercover outdoor area in summer that you can use to relax and enjoy the good weather.
- It gives you a place to dry clothes when it is raining.
- I would have finished the tiny house completely before moving in. We moved in without power or water which was a bit of a nightmare. If I did it again I would first move the tiny house into its final location and hook up the solar, water and ensure it is all working as intended before moving in. This would definitely help to reduce some of the initial stress of moving house.
What’s been your experience living in a tiny house? Leave a comment below and let us know what you thought!