America is having a love affair with tiny homes. With the popularity of shows like “Tiny House Hunters,” “Tiny House Builders,” “Tiny House, Big Living” and “Tiny House Nation,” the tiny house movement is going mainstream. It might seem like just a novelty, but there are some serious financial advantages to living small.
From a lower cost of living to a smaller carbon footprint to less maintenance, many people find they save money living in a tiny home. If you’re considering joining this growing movement, here are 10 tiny home perks you should know before taking the plunge.
1. Lower Utility Bills
It typically costs significantly less to run electricity and water in a tiny house than in a traditional house. Susan and John Anderson* built their 283-square-foot tiny home in Washington state about three years ago and have been enjoying the significant savings.
“We anticipated some obvious benefits of having a tiny rather than larger home, like lower maintenance costs, but we were pleasantly surprised by our $12 utility bills,” said Susan.
The Andersons’ tiny home runs on standard electricity and gets its water from a well on the property, but a tiny home with solar power or a small wood-fired stove might be able to eliminate the electricity bill altogether. The cost of installing solar power in a tiny home doesn’t come cheap. The panels alone can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more — but over time, the savings are significant. However, if you have a setup like the Andersons, you might pay roughly $144 a year for water and power.
2. Easier to Clean
Owners of tiny homes rave about how quick and easy it is to clean their space. “It takes about 5 minutes to pick up around the house, and we can deep-clean the space in an hour,” said John. “We are kind of neat freaks, though, so we never let it go very long in between cleanings,” Susan added.
Living in a small house means there is less room for the dirt to go around, so many people say their tiny homes actually get messy and dirtier faster than traditional homes, according to tiny house company TumbleweedHouses.com. It can take a lot of discipline to keep your tiny home tidy, like putting away items right after you use them, keeping the laundry flowing and maintaining an impeccable system of organization.
3. Less Maintenance
When you live in a tiny home, there is simply less work to do to maintain your space. There is less to fix, less to store and less to prep for the seasons. For example, if you need to clear the roof of fall leaves, it will take a quarter of the time. If your deck needs repairs or wood floors need replacing, you’ll have minimal square feet to worry about. Decorating for holidays will be quicker and easier. Even painting your entire home could take just a can or two of paint and a half day’s work.
Now, if your home is situated on a large piece of land, like the Andersons’ is, you might spend more time maintaining the surrounding property.
“We spend a good amount of time cutting back the grass, clearing debris and prepping the house for the changing seasons,” said John. “But we love being outside, and we’ve always been avid gardeners. It feels good at the end of the day.”
4. More Time to Pursue Passions
When you spend less time cleaning and maintaining a house and dealing with all your “stuff,” you have more time to do what you love. For some tiny house owners, that means spending more time with family and friends. For others, it could mean learning a new skill or crafting a talent, or maybe a little bit of both.
“We have discovered artistic talents and interests we would not have known — now that time has been freed up from chores and maintenance,” John said.
“We are freed up from shopping. With such little space, we need so little,” Susan said. “Our buying interests have switched to finding recycled and salvaged materials for creative projects, which is much more interesting than going to the store.”
5. Smaller Footprint
Living in a tiny home requires a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. Because you need fewer building materials, you have the opportunity to salvage recycled materials and repurpose. It’s a lot easier to find a few dozen square feet of salvaged countertops than an entire full-sized kitchen’s worth.
“When building codes mandated a maximum of a 283-square-foot footprint for our cabin, we were challenged to think in inches during the design process,” said Susan. “We had a beautiful piece of wood from a tree on our property that we sanded down into a countertop and we got our kitchen cabinets from a salvage yard in Seattle.”
The Andersons also spent hours designing their space for optimal use. “We fit in a full kitchen with dining table, full laundry/bathroom, queen bed/love seat sitting/office main room — all in 283 feet,” said John.
6. Freedom to Travel
Some tiny homes are permanent, like the Andersons’, and some can be built to hit the road. Tiny homes on wheels can be moved to a new long-term location or simply taken on vacation like you would with a travel trailer or RV. Forget packing suitcases or the hassle of packing and moving — a mobile tiny house means your home can follow along.
Plus, if your tiny house has a rainwater collection system, solar panels or even a composting toilet, you won’t have to worry about hooking up to power or sewer during your travels. You can simply park and enjoy the comforts of home wherever life’s adventures take you.
7. Less Stuff
If you make the move to a tiny house, you’ll be forced to de-clutter your entire life — you simply won’t be able to fit all your things in your new, smaller space. This can be a painful process, but it’s an opportunity to take stock of what really matters and to set yourself free from the burden of clutter.
“We remember the free feeling when we were in college that everything we owned could fit inside our VW bugs,” said Susan. “Our small home is bigger than that car, but we get the same feeling — freedom from the burden of things, money pits, time drains.”
“We love how constantly clever we have to be regarding how to use the space, how to store things, even how to give a dinner party for 12 people,” she added. “This has to be good for the aging brain.”
8. More Time Spent Outside
When a tiny house owner needs to get some space, they usually turn to the great outdoors. The Andersons’ tiny home is nestled on a hill overlooking Puget Sound.
“We feel an immediate part of our natural surroundings,” John said. “From every part of the interior we hear birds, breezes in the trees and even leaves falling.”
“Even if it’s cloudy or cold we usually eat outdoors,” Susan said. “We specifically designed the home to include large windows and a deck area to entice us to live outside as much as possible. Then, when we’re ready to head inside, the intimate, private interior increases a sense of calm and safety. Our grandchildren beg to spend the night with us in the coziness of the small house.”
9. Low Startup Costs
Some tiny house owners hire a contractor to build their homes, some buy a prefabricated kit online and some take a DIY approach. There are stories of people building their own tiny homes for as little as $8,000.
However, depending on the size, features, building materials and types of materials you use, the cost of building a tiny home typically ranges from about $20,000 to $40,000, and the average DIY job runs about $23,000, according to Forbes.
On average, tiny houses cost between $200 and $400 per square foot, reported Forbes, which is higher than the average standard American home. This is mostly due to the custom equipment a tiny home requires, like a smaller water heater, specially sized appliances, and shrunk-down toilets and sinks. Still, considering a tiny home is much smaller than a traditional home, the overall costs are much lower than if you were building a full-sized house, which runs just over $300,000.
10. Bragging Rights
Tiny house owners are part of a growing movement that’s getting a lot of attention. Not only does the lifestyle make for some interesting stories, it makes for a great life experience.
“Everyone is fascinated with how we have made life work so well in a tiny space,” said Susan. “It is endlessly fun to share our experience with others and see the amazement on their faces.”
John added, “Between the feelings of freedom and having life under control — this is heaven.”
*Names have been changed.