After our first six months of living in a tiny house, we’re no experts in the tiny life just yet, but we are accustomed to answering a handful of frequently asked questions. If you’re curious what it’s like to live in 250 square feet on wheels, here’s some inside intel!
How’s the tiny house/tiny living?
We each hear this question at least once a day. At first, our answer was “It’s… interesting!” or “We’re still getting used to it, but it’s good so far.” Now, we feel like living in a tiny house is just regular life. This may change when we start traveling in it, but we’re so used to the daily quirks now we don’t notice them anymore—until we go to a regular house with luxurious flush toilets and rooms bigger than our entire house. What’s more, we don’t actually miss having more space, something we thought would be a much bigger mental adjustment.
How do you move it?
We tow it with our Ford F-350. The house is built on a travel trailer and designed with travel in mind: steel framing and metal siding/roofing to be lighter and stronger than traditional wood construction, a customized roofline to be (relatively) more aerodynamic, and off grid capabilities.
What’s it like to tow?
Allen is the only one of the two of us with towing experience, but nothing prepared us to be towing our tiny house for the first time ever in the middle of high wind advisories as we left Chicago. Signs along our route literally said “TRUCKS AND RVS, WARNING: TIP-OVER RISK.” Other than the wind and some bumpy bridges, towing is just slow. A trip that would have taken 16 hours by car took us 24 when towing the house as we could cruise at no more than 60 mph. We haven’t towed it since, but we’re already planning for our future road trips to take twice as long as they would by car (and that’s totally OK with us!)
What do you do for utilities? Do you have heat and AC?
Our water is hooked up through a regular drinking water hose, and our gray water (soapy sink/shower water) drains into a slow release tank in the ground at our current location. Our 10-gallon water heater, three-burner stove, oven and duct heating system are all on propane, and our electricity is hooked up through your basic RV power cord. Our window AC unit, midi fridge and everything else not on propane is powered by electricity (or the battery when we’re not hooked up.) We opted for a composting toilet to avoid black water (sewage) concerns, but we do have a black water tank installed in case we want to switch to an RV-style flush toilet when we’re more stationary. Our TH is also set up to run on solar power, which we plan on implementing in the next year or two.
How does the “toilet situation” work?
We always laugh at this one. It’s weird, for sure, but surprisingly not as gross as it seems. We use a Nature’s Head composting toilet, which separates #1 from #2 into tanks that have to be emptied manually and disposed of in certain ways. No, it doesn’t smell like a Port-a-John. It actually doesn’t smell like much at all as it vents below the trailer. We’ll spare you the rest of the details here, but if you’re looking into composting toilets for your TH, feel free to contact us directly with your questions.
How is your storage?
We’ve got great kitchen cabinet space, storage built into our couch, a second loft, and hidden nooks and crannies all over the place. Every now and then we rearrange as we find out which items we end up using more or less than we thought we would, and we’re still figuring out ways to utilize the space under the stairs. (Check out our episode of Tiny House Nation to see how they used the space for a really cool beer project for Allen!) One thing is for sure: The pare-down process never ends. We have to constantly evaluate how worth it is for something to take up space in our house when we’re cleaning and shopping, including groceries.
Where did/do you put all your stuff?
It took us a few years to pare down everything from our 1800 sq. ft. geodesic dome in Chapel Hill. We had both accumulated a lot of hand-me-downs, hobbies and sentimental items. The special stuff that wouldn’t hold up well during travel, like my Venetian masks and Allen’s beer bottle collection, is in my parents’ attic. We gave a lot of things to my sister and her husband, donated to Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Goodwill, left some furniture for the next renters at their request, and sold a few things for the travel fund.
What made it into the house was carefully chosen (mostly) and stored strategically. Allen’s remaining beer wares get the top shelf of one kitchen cabinet, the stuff I need to reach regularly get the bottom shelves, and the lesser used kitchen items, like our juicer, get the middle and top shelf of the other cabinet. Our second loft over the bathroom holds bigger items, like hiking bags and our emergency kit, and things used once a month or less, such as dress clothes and winter blankets. Shoes go in our storage ottomans, which double as mini coffee tables and my desk seat. Our clothes are stored in baskets under the stairs, and the rest of the miscellaneous items live in the storage L of our couch and the lower kitchen cabinets.
How do the cats like it?
They’re old, so as long as they have a place to sleep, they’re happy. When we moved them into the house in March, they found their favorite spots right away: Lola loves the big windows downstairs, and Ursula likes our bed in the loft.
How do you do laundry?
We have a ventless combo washer/dryer unit under our kitchen counter. It works great for washing small loads, but like most combo washer/dryers, it doesn’t fully dry laundry. We hang our clothes to finish drying on a rack on the inside of our front door.
How is sleeping in the loft? Can you stand/sit up in it?
There’s definitely no standing in it as it’s just 3 feet from the loft floor to the highest part of the ceiling (there’s a very slight vault to it.) My bun hits the ceiling when I sit up straight in bed, and Allen can sit up straight if he’s on the floor. For sleeping, the space itself is very comfortable, but it can get pretty hot in the summer. I was nervous about us or the cats falling out of the loft as it doesn’t have a railing of any kind, but that hasn’t turned out to be a problem since the bed is far enough away from the edge. Our blackout blinds make it nice and dark, and our Ikea foam mattress is super comfy. It’s also my favorite spot to read as the window sills and pillows make it a cozy nook!