Here's what living in a tiny house is really like, according to people who traded their homes for minimalism

  • Tiny houses are on trend right now, but while the minimalist lifestyle has benefits, it brings some challenges.
  • Tiny houses can help people live debt free and they’re more environmentally friendly.
  • Living in such tight quarters can create unique, unexpected problems that can seem magnified in a tight space, like easier wear and tear and quick messes.
  • Here’s what life is really like living in a tiny house, from the good to the bad.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tiny houses are painted as a minimalist utopia – and while many tiny home dwellers love the lifestyle that brings, it doesn’t come without a few challenges.

Tiny houses have their perks – they’re both environmentally and budget friendly. But living in such tight quarters can create unique, unexpected problems, like difficult zoning laws, easier wear and tear, taking care of compost toilets, and quick messes, to name a few.

Read more: 6 people on how living in a tiny house has changed their finances, from going debt-free to saving six figures

Tiny houses may have their appeal, but they’re not the right fit for everyone. There are a few things to consider before plunging into such a small space.

So what does the reality look like versus the perception? Here’s what life is really like living in a tiny home – the good and the bad.

The roots of tiny living date back to the 18th century in the days of Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond, but tiny houses have been a rising trend in the past five years.


In 2013, the Caravan Tiny House Hotel opened in Portland, Oregon, and reality TV shows Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters debuted the following year, putting tiny living in a national spotlight.


Over the past three years, zoning laws and nonprofits have been passed throughout various parts of the US to help relax regulations for tiny houses.


Tiny homes have plenty of pros — they’re more environmentally friendly, you can live on the go, and you save money.

But when problems pop up in a tiny space, they can seem magnified. In the span of two weeks, the bloggers behind “Wife Me and Tea,” dealt with a leaking A/C unit, bathroom leak, and a broken toilet fan when they lived in their tiny home. They wrote in their blog that it was stressful in a small space.

For some, it’s a matter of affordability.

“Here, on the inside, we have found small not so beautiful after all,” wrote tiny home dweller Gene Tempest in The New York Times. “Like the silent majority of other middling or poor urban dwellers in expensive cities, we are residents of tiny homes not by design, but because it is all our money can rent,” she wrote.

Source:The New York Times

Some tiny home dwellers buy their home outright, while others build and design them from scratch to meet their needs. This gives them a level of customization, but it can come with difficulties.

When tiny home resident Jenna was building her tiny house, there weren’t many resources available. “Most of my planning/building was achieved through trial and error,” she told Business Insider.

It was ultimately worth it for her because she’s debt free. She credits this to the low expenses associated with tiny living.

She loves having the ability to move her home whenever she needs to relocate. “Financial freedom, mobility, and being a homeowner (without a loan) in my 20s are just a few of the benefits I’ve received from going tiny,” she said.

While it’s nice to be able to move your home around, zoning laws can make it difficult. According to Thrillist, some zoning laws make tiny living illegal — even if you buy land, there’s the possibility it’s illegal to build a tiny home on it.

Tim and Sam of Tiffany the Tiny Home bought their tiny home instead of building it. “The preparation process was really just downsizing and mentally preparing to live in less space,” they told Business Insider.

Within 90 days, they got rid of most of their belongings and cut out the excess. “It wasn’t terribly hard to do this,” they said. “And we knew we didn’t use 75% of the space we were living in at the time.”

But, that means they had to downsize sentimental items and memorabilia. “We both loved keeping mementos and collecting souvenirs from our travels, and that’s something we had to sacrifice,” they said.

“We have enough room to keep what we call the ‘nonnegotiables,’ but we definitely parted ways with some of our memory items,” they said.

“We compromised in our travels by sending ourselves postcards and keeping them in a small album in our bookshelf.” They added that it’s cost and space efficient, and helps them remember their most cherished trips.

If they do bring something back from a trip, it’s small — like this tiny fair door.

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to not buy things,” Tim wrote. “I know eventually I will get rid of some of these things I brought back as everything breaks or takes up space for something else.”

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

They moved Tiffany to a new place for the first time last year, and it involved quite a bit of prep work. They first had to get Tiffany off of the cinder blocks and, like an RV, unhook the water, sewage, and electric.

But what wasn’t expected was dealing with some plumbing issues. They had to reroute their toilet pipe into their main pipe so it wouldn’t drag during transportation of their home.

They also had to stow movable items, childproof cabinets and doors, and strap down movable objects.

Another challenge they’ve faced is being intentional with their “me” time. “Being in a small space for us means spending more time outdoors,” they said. “We do love each other, but everyone needs personal time to relax and recharge.”

Sometimes, they need to get creative about where and when the personal time takes place. However, there’s a plus side: this time becomes sacred. Because they’re so intentional with it, they appreciate it that much more.

Jenna also found a few challenges to living small. “I don’t have guests over very often and I had to make some compromises when it comes to creature comforts,” she said.

For example: a limited wardrobe. “There have been several occasions when I curse my tiny closet and the lack of contents within,” she wrote in a blog post.

“For example, one summer I was invited to several weddings and I was photographed wearing the exact same thing to each and every one. It was embarrassing. I felt unfashionable and poor, and I’m neither of those things.”

Her tiny house is also restricted by weight, which is determined by axle size. “I can’t add a marble countertop or a tile bathroom to my house,” she wrote. “I have to think about every single item I bring in to my home. Often, when I’m deciding between two things I choose the one that weighs the least.”

It can be easy and fast to clean a tiny house…

…but they also get dirty quickly. “I can turn my house from a sterile hospital room into a disgusting dumpster in a matter of seconds,” Jenna wrote. “One bowl of cereal falls off the counter… my house is a wreck. It’s laundry day and I’m hanging clothes inside to dry because it’s raining outdoors…total chaos. My dog roams in with muddy paws….game over.”

“I feel like I’m constantly cleaning, and that’s a big con for me,” Jenna wrote.

And a loft bed is pretty cool, but making it is not. “I’m pretty sure I deserve an Olympic medal for making my bed every day in just 40 inches of space,” she wrote.

It’s also difficult to avoid smells in a tiny space, whether they’re good or bad. “A single scented candle can be overwhelming,” Jenna wrote. “Opening the windows helps a bit, but some smells – such as burnt toast or a campfire – will imprint themselves on my curtains, clothes, and sheets for days on end.”

And while a tiny home leaves less space for clutter, it also means that you have to stay more organized.

And regular-sized pieces can seem larger than life in a tiny home. “Embarrassing, ordinary objects like the hamper are empowered in small spaces; they become tyrants,” wrote Tempest. “In a larger home, this perfectly functional item might recede quietly into a closet or laundry room.”

Source:The New York Times

Tempest added that things aged faster than in her previous homes, and that their tiny home is characterized by shabbiness. “Everything in our tiny house is worked over more, used harder,” she wrote.

Source:The New York Times

A tiny house means you’ll no longer have a full kitchen — a mini fridge and lack of counter space can be a problem if you like to cook. “I see tiny houses with mini-fridges and a two-burner stove top with no oven,” Justin, a Tiny Home dweller, told Thrillist. “And I think, ‘what the hell do you cook?'”

Your stove might look like this.

Because they have a tight kitchen, usually only Tim or Sam cooks at the same time. But, they find it fun.

“It calls for high efficiency, and cleaning as you go to work with the space,” Sam said. “It makes you appreciate the process to chop one thing at a time. We love using the grill because it’s fast and we get to utilize our outside space as well.”

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Storage space is also hard to come by — every inch needs to be maximized.

Lighting should also be strategic in a tiny home. “Remember this is a tiny home and believe it or not there’s a thing as too much light and the size of the bulb should be considered based on your fixture,” Tim wrote.

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

He said you don’t want to see the light bulb while looking at the fixture because it can cause stress on the eyes in such a small space.

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

Fixture size also needs to be taken into account. “The fixtures sizes in Tiffany are on point,” Tim wrote. “They are not too big for the tiny space but they are not so small that it’s not functional.”

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

The bathroom might also be a little different — most tiny homes use compost toilets. While these help with conservation, they do need to be emptied periodically. Jenna wrote in her blog it can also be a little awkward to explain to guests how to use one.

Tim and Sam also found that the small size of their bathroom soaks up more moisture. “Since we have a vent that leads directly outside for the exhaust fan, it’s that much easier for moisture to get into our bathroom,” Tim wrote in a blog post.

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

They ended up solving the problem by getting a dehumidifier, which removes moisture from the air and reduces the sulfur smell from the water.

Source:Tiffany the Tiny Home

“Perhaps the biggest downside of living alternatively is that many people will judge you as a radical (or even ridiculous) person, just because you aren’t participating in what society has deemed to be ‘normal,'” Jenna said.

Overall, Tim and Sam found that living tiny was the right move, benefiting their financial and mental health. They’ve experienced less anxiety and will be mortgage-free in two more years.

“Being free of excess allows us to focus inward and make changes to live a conscious and rewarding life with financial independent freedom,” they said.

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