Why would anyone ever move into a tiny home? We asked four people who have done it.
There are two kinds of people: Those who don’t understand why anyone would want to move into a tiny home, and those who ogle tiny home ideas and dream of getting a tiny house of their own someday (and just rent tiny houses in the meantime). After looking at some of these gorgeous little spaces, though, anyone can begin to understand why someone would choose the tiny house life.
Of course, every tiny house owner has their own motivations. Some people choose to make the move to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, while others just want to contribute to the minimalism that they see as the future of sustainable living. To better understand the motivations behind tiny house living, we spoke with four different families about why they made the decision to move into a tiny home. Who knows, one of these stories might just strike a chord with your hidden need to get a tiny home of your own someday.
John and Fin Kernohan
Courtesy of John Kernohan
John moved into a tiny home in Georgia’s lake country, and to say he’s passionate about his decision is an understatement. The idea initially came from his wife, Fin, who preferred living smaller and closer to nature.
“Fin did not like my big house in south Florida and enjoyed being around the man who spent time up in the Georgia woods, compared to the guy who lived in south Florida,” John says. “Fin also felt it would be great for us to build our own home and live in a smaller space.”
And so, in 2012, the couple moved up to a beautiful space in Georgia and started building their own 304-square-foot tiny home, which they refer to as the Beloved Cabin.
“We haven’t looked back with any regret and we are extremely happy with our current tiny lifestyle,” John says.
The Cabin is stationary, but the couple also built the Tiny Firehouse (pictured above), which is designed as a dedication to first responders. This 148-square-foot tiny house on wheels is entirely towable and allows them to travel the country—a feature of tiny home living that appealed to them when they were initially considering moving into a smaller space.
“We love the freedom of living how we want and living where we want at any given moment,” John says. “If we want to, we can hitch up the tiny firehouse and hit the road.”
The Kernohans are so passionate about tiny homes that they started the United Tiny House Association, which provides advice and support to more than 34,000 members passionate about small living. They also organize charity tiny house events and tiny living festivals. While the couple loves the lifestyle of living small, they also love the monetary and environmental aspects of tiny living.
“Our monthly expenses are near-null—we have paid cash for all our land, houses, and vehicles,” John says.
Living in a tiny house doesn’t necessarily mean you’re debt-free, but it can definitely be a start. One thing that it definitely helps with is lowering carbon footprints, though. “We feel a responsibility to give back so others will have a little more of this Earth when we are gone,” John says of their commitment to keeping their footprint small.
Zeena and Shane Fontanilla
Zeena and Shane live in Kula, Hawaii, in their 360-square-foot tiny home with their 2-year-old son, Maverick. While the decision to live in a tiny home with a child may seem taxing, the Fontanilla family just enjoys the benefits; the couple built the home themselves as an answer to skyrocketing housing costs and their own desires to save money for the future.
“Especially if you live in an expensive state, tiny living is so affordable,” Zeena says. “It can also be a great stepping stone to pay off debt and save money to buy a larger home later.”
Their goal of saving more hasn’t been the only benefit—they’re now debt-free homeowners as well. “We’re homeowners on the island my husband and I both grew up in,” Zeena says. “And I’m getting to be a partial stay at home mom—there are too many benefits to this lifestyle.”
That said, Zeena fully acknowledges the challenges that come with adjusting to a smaller lifestyle. “The perspective shift has been the most challenging,” she says. “We absolutely love the simplicity of this lifestyle, but we can get caught up in wanting more, newer, better things.”
While the feeling of wanting more is totally understandable, working toward a newer, simpler point of view certainly has its own advantages. “It’s incredibly freeing to have fewer things in our home to manage, clean, find space for, or even look at,” Zeena says.
Chris completed his 145-square-foot tiny home, located in the Catskills of New York, in 2017. At the time, he wanted to introduce his daughter to a simpler, more nature-infused lifestyle, but he never could have imagined that it would become his business. Today, Schapdick builds and sells tiny homes on wheels through his company, Tiny Industrial—and he’s happy to share the gift of a simpler life with others.
“A tiny house can teach you how little you really need to be content and happy in a world that pushes more things and larger dwellings as being desirable,” he says.
While Schapdick and his daughter only live in their tiny house part-time, they’ve still faced challenges and learned from the experience of living in such a small space.
“I needed a two-bedroom house for my daughter and me, and that had to happen in 150 square feet of space,” Schapdick says. “You have to figure out how to use the space to best suit your particular needs and goals for the space.” (If you’re hoping to adopt a tiny home lifestyle, start studying up on home organization best-practices and ideas for decorating small spaces now.)
After building his own home, Schapdick has learned how to build spaces for other families and started to focus on creating spaces for others that highlight a major feature of such a small house: access to the outdoors.
“Small houses for me are very comforting,” Schapdick says. “When you couple that with a location that allows for using the outdoor space as well, you get the best of both worlds.”
Amy and Craig Lawrence
Courtesy of Amy Lawrence
Amy and Craig—@westcoasttinyhome on Instagram—moved into their 320-square-foot Vancouver, British Columbia, home in 2018. “We wanted to focus on owning less stuff and focus more on living an outdoor lifestyle,” Amy says. “We also wanted to have something that we owned ourselves which was affordable.”
They designed and built the home themselves. “There was a huge learning curve building it ourselves,” Amy says. “Luckily, we had a great group of friends and family to help us along the way.”
In addition to the sense of accomplishment that has come with owning their own home, Amy says it has helped them focus on the more important aspects of life. “It’s a great lifestyle focusing more on moments and experiences rather than how much stuff you own,” she says.