12 Monthly Resolutions to the Tiny Lifestyle!
I have never been a big ‘New Years Resolution’ type of person but I do tend to try to do monthly resolutions to challenge myself. I have heard from a few people recently that are wondering how they can get a little closer to the tiny house mentality/lifestyle. It inspired me to put together a list of monthly resolutions let’s say. These are things that I did, not necessarily over the course of a whole year but they were necessary in order to downsize and make the steps forward from my 2,500 s.f. lifestyle to my 196 s.f. house to see if it was going to work for me. This is more of a list of things to do to see if it is the right direction for you, a very non-committal way to go :). It is not a to do list to build a tiny house, just something closer to the lifestyle.
January – Make a list of priorities (10 or so for) things that are ‘critically important to be in your living space. These will vary as much as the people making the lists. If there are two or more of you, talk through them together. For an example, here is my list:
1) A big comfy shower with lots of hot water, 2) a full kitchen with counter space and an oven for baking casseroles, 3) room for my sewing machine in storage and in use, 4) a cupboard for my photography gear 5) Room for all of my art supplies in storage and in use (I oil paint, and draw with various inks, pastels, pencils etc.), 6) room for a Great Dane (I’ve wanted one since I was six), 7) room for two adults to sit comfortably, 8) A fridge with a separate freezer
Functionally those were my requirements, since then I have been able to adapt it to suite two adults and a baby, including a separate sleeping area for the baby (co-sleeper, not a separate room). Fortunately I have also built in a TON of extra storage that I haven’t even used to date so I will have oodles of room for baby clothes/toys/supplies (and a washer/dryer for cleaning the diapers! I almost didn’t put that in!).
Work up a list of needs/wants and sleep on it for a while, think about it throughout the month and change it as needed.
February – Make a savings plan. Figure out how to get there, financially. Some people have hinged their TH build on the sale of a larger home, some borrow, some save, most do a combo of the options Personally I had some pretty good savings built up. A long time before I had the idea to build I was in the habit of saving a few hundred dollars a month. This left m very fortunate at the point I decided I wanted to build I had $10,000 cash. That put me well off the starting point and I was able to pay for the rest as I built. Initially the cost is in the basic materials to shell in. If you notice in my budget the cost of all of the appliances and ‘extra’ things amounts to just under half of my cost. For about 5-6k and a good find on a trailer you can get going on your build and then pay as you need to for the rest over the course of the build.
One thing to not gloss over, I had really good luck getting sponsorships and deals on brand new materials, I give pointers on how to do that HERE.
Another option people have been working on is peer-to-peer financing for tiny house loans. There are various financing options available through a good number of companies that will build your tiny house for you as well. To find companies near you to contact about financing options one of the best resources I know of is www.tinyhousemap.com. As far as I know tiny houses are not financeable via banks other than through a personal line of credit. If someone knows otherwise please do leave a comment below so others can know!
March – Introduce the idea to your friends and family, ask for support. This is a big one, you’re lucky if you have people close to you that completely support the notion, not many seem to. Don’t expect people to instantly think it’s brilliant! Expect to try to be talked out of it. This is where you have to know what you want and what you’re comfortable with and you have to be able to answer all the uncertainty that you will face, most likely those close to you are just looking out for you. If you need some ideas there are some HERE, HERE, and HERE. Be confident in your reasons. You’ll get questions like ‘how can you expect to date anyone ever again?’, ‘Where will you go to the bathroom?’, ‘Where will all your ‘stuff’ go?’ and on and on and on. If you think through things then you should have answers to all of it, if not, use it as a time to think through those things. Just don’t let yourself to be pressured into changing your mind (it’s ok if you change your mind naturally :)). One thing I found is that there are a lot of critics until you take the leap and start going forward, then, a good portion of those critics turn into your biggest supports! My theory has always been that if I can’t defend my idea I probably wasn’t confident in it enough in the first place to make it successful. From me though, and the whole rest of the Tiny House Community, it IS possible, it IS doable, it DOES make tons of sense and it is SO worth it! Don’t expect someone to help encourage you into the tiny life when you are unsure but find the ‘helpers’ who will at least not think you’re nuts :).
Downsizing! It takes a long time to pair down your belongings to only the most wanted/needed items, my suggestion is to try it out before just going nuts and just throwing everything away/donating it all! As you go through room by room put it’s good to have a couple boxes, one for instant donations that you know for a fact you can do without, the sorts of things you’ve never used in the last three years. Another box for the ‘probably can do without’ stuff. Don’t feel obligated to push it, use your judgement, think about what your tiny house will be like, if its an item you definitely want make room for it. If you’re like me you’ve just collected a bunch of crap you really don’t need/want over the years, it’s a byproduct of our consumeristic society. Once you go through everything store the ‘probably can do without’ boxes somewhere safe (a garage/shed/storage unit), you MAY want to access these later, maybe not. If at any point you want think you messed up and boxed something that you shouldn’t have, go find it and pull it back into circulation. After I did this, of several boxes I never felt the need to go exhume anything, it was a nice way to test it without the full on commitment!
April – Minimize Clothes/Shoes. I put this one first because we have four seasons here, I can go through all my clothes but I have winter wear and summer wear, it takes time to see if I want to pull things back or not. I have never had a shoe fetish but if that is something that is on your priority list there are ways to make room for a pretty extensive shoe collection, if not it’s a good time to go through and pick your favorites. One thing I have noticed is that I buy better shoes now. Since I basically have four pairs of shoes I make sure to get good ones, my feet have appreciated the tiny life :). One of the tricks I have heard for going through clothes is to put all of your hangers on the rod backward (with the hook facing you), once you use the item of clothing turn the hanger around. At the end of the cycle (month/season/year or whatever) any hangers that are still turned around are the clothes to be gotten rid of. Again, have two boxes, the immediate donate and the ‘probably donate’ box.
May – Kitchen – Go through all of your kitchen gadgets and utensils. Pick your favorites and the must haves. Think about the dinners you like to make if applicable and all the pots you need to make those. I took the biggest/messiest meal I make and kept ALL of those items and that was basically my new kitchen, everything else went away. I saved enough dishes for two place settings for two people (and some extra silverware). Other than that I kept a blender, some mixing bowls, a french press and a waffle maker (because waffle Sunday’s are the best!). You don’t have to get rid of things you don’t want, just take the opportunity to get realistic about what you use constantly. If it’s a lot there are ways to design in a big kitchen to a tiny house, it may just have to come out of somewhere else.
June – Living room/Dining room. Go through all the drawers and nooks and crannies, box up what needs to be boxed up. Think about the furniture you want in your tiny house. I wanted the ability to have a full sized couch in my house so that was my baseline. If you really want a recliner then make that the priority. This is one area that you do generally have to get pretty specific though, not a lot of room for a sectional AND a recliner. If you are really committed to the idea you can think about what items of furniture you may have that you can sell (I was able to sell a couple thousand dollars in furnishings to help me with the financing of my build). Also decide if you want a dinner table. To me it wasn’t critical, to others it may be. It was a space I rarely used except as a desk but out of that I decided a desk area was pretty handy and so it made its way into my design, and I located it in such a way that that one night a year I actually eat at a table I can use the desk as a table! At this point this is more about minimizing and getting yourself into the mentality of a tiny house dweller.
July – Bathroom(s). This was a surprisingly cluttered room for me! I had a lot of half used bottles of crap for everything. Multiple half full bottles of rubbing alcohol and peroxide, go through, condense and get rid of the old stuff you probably shouldn’t be hanging onto anyway. At this point you may also think about how you want to handle water use in your tiny house. If you are going fairly standard with plumbing you may not need to worry about anything too much. If you are collecting grey water you may think about switching your cleaning/hygene products to ones that contain words you can pronounce (one of my favorites is Soap For Goodness Sake) or other alternative methods so that those chemicals that would normally be treated at waste-water plants don’t end up just being dumped into the ground. Some people skip the plumbing thing all together and opt for a bucket of drinking water and a gym membership for showers, it is all about your comfort level.
August – Bedroom(s). One of the things about this room that was hard for me is that bedrooms tend to be multi-functional rooms that have a lot of stuff besides a bed (sitting areas, gaming consoles, desk area, sometimes it ends up as a midnight snack area). I had to retrain myself to think about the bed area as only for sleeping (and those related activities ;-)). I have a couple books on an end table, a lamp and a bed. My clothes storage is also accounted for but everything else happens in the living area. If you are thinking of minimizing it may be good to start to think and use the bedroom for only bedroom activities.
September – Office/Utility/Other. Go through all of your ‘other areas’, the dreaded ‘junk drawers’ in the office, the garage, utility spaces etc. I have a lot of tools, I don’t use them every day but I certainly did not want to get rid of them. There are a few options for this, you can decide to have a ‘tiny shop’ (aka storage shed) for those sorts of hobbies, they are not indoor things usually anyway :). Another option is to pair up with one of your ‘helpers’/supporters, give them access to your tools for access to their garage/shop. It could be a match made in heaven :).
October – Don’t Buy any’thing’ new. Now that you’re minimized try out the idea of not adding back to the collections. This is purposefully put around the beginning of the ‘Christmas Shopping’ season. Think about gift giving and what you can do/make instead of promoting the idea of more ‘stuff’. It is quite a trick all in itself to resist buying ‘things’. Enjoy it though, living in a tiny house is less about things and more about experiences!
November – Initiate the ‘One in One out’ policy. If there is something now that you are just itching to get, get it but use the one-in-one-out policy. Want a new dress, get rid of an old one, new boots, trade out some old ones… it is also more of adjusting to a new mindset.
December – Storage/Shed. All those ‘maybe donate’ boxes that you haven’t dug into yet from earlier in the year, it’s time to donate! 🙂 At this point you should have a pretty good idea if you miss any of that stuff too much, you should have gone through enough seasons to know about the clothes too. It is amazingly freeing to unload that stuff, pretty scary in my experience but totally worth it!