What it is, and how to see if it’s for you

If you’re a fan of watching any home and garden networks, you’ve probably become aware of the Tiny Home Movement. It started gaining traction in the early 2000s, and it really took off during the 2007-08 financial crisis as an affordable alternative to traditional housing. Some people are drawn to tiny houses via environmental concerns — they’re a good way to drastically reduce your carbon footprint — while others are intrigued because they offer freedom from typical homeowner responsibilities.

For many retirees, tiny home living is an attractive option for downsizing, whether you’re looking to reduce your mortgage payment, live closer to family or simply free yourself to travel more. But tiny home living is not a simple transition; it requires adopting a strictly minimalist lifestyle (more on that in a bit). Here are some unique benefits and disadvantages you can expect when living in a tiny home, and a few fabulous resorts you can visit for a test ride.

Tiny Home Life: What Does It Entail?

A typical tiny house has a square footage of between 100 and 400 square feet, according to the website The Tiny Life. That’s about one-sixth the size of the average American home. In order to fit everything you might need, the structures usually have clever adaptations that maximize space efficiency, like sleeping lofts, narrow staircases, high shelves, and pull-out or folding furniture. A dining table in a tiny home, for instance, usually folds up and is held in place vertically against the wall when not in use. The appliances are typically much smaller — comparable to those found in camper vans — and storage is usually, ahem, creative.

The idea is to adapt a minimalist lifestyle in order to make these homes livable. The founder of The Tiny Life, Ryan Mitchell, points out what you’ll need to consider: “What do you really need in this life? It is often a lot less than you think, but I feel it’s also important to point out this isn’t about living without – we aren’t trying to sacrifice things here — we are trying to find the happy medium.” 

Advantages of a Tiny Home

  • Saving money.  Tiny homes are often much more affordable than traditional homes. According to HomeAdvisor, a basic small home can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000. (If you want to make it really fancy, with clever design aspects and expensive appliances, it will run more than that.) You can even buy DIY home kits off Amazon these days, like this beautiful modern prefab. Additionally, since you’re powering far fewer appliances, your utilities payments will be drastically reduced.
  • Traveling without leaving home.  Some tiny homes are designed with portability in mind, allowing them to be towed behind a vehicle on trailers or their own sets of wheels.
  • Reducing your carbon footprint. Potentially, with a little effort and know-how, you could live completely off the grid in a tiny home. Many tiny houses are built with eco-friendly features such as solar power and composting toilets (but this isn’t a requirement if that’s not your thing). Even with normal plumbing and electric setups, you can still significantly reduce your environmental impact by going tiny.
  • No room for clutter. Limited space and function will practically force you to stay organized and prioritize just the basics. (And there’s less to clean!)

Disadvantages and Challenges of a Tiny Home

  • Land availability. Buying or building your tiny home is the easy part; finding land to put it on can be challenging. Unless you’re prepared to live in a rural setting (which has a lot more flexibility), it can be difficult to find land available for purchase at a reasonable cost, and lots that are big enough to give you a modicum of privacy. One way to get around this barrier is to put your tiny home on land you already own. (Here is a sweet example from AARP.)
  • Zoning regulations. Tiny homes are often too small to meet typical residential zoning requirements. Zoning laws vary between states, counties and even cities, so you’ll need to do some research to make sure your tiny home is legal to live in. (Along the same page, some local governments consider portable tiny homes to be RVs, which restricts where you can park them and whether you can live in them full-time.)
  • Not well-suited for people with disabilities. Many tiny homes have features that would be difficult for anyone with mobility issues. You often need to climb ladders or narrow stairs, and tight spaces can present problems as well. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but something you would need to keep in mind if you are planning to age in place.

Tiny Home Resorts

The best way to find out if tiny home living would be something you’d enjoy is to try it on for size. (See what we did there?) Here are some places to check out:

  • A Tiny House Resort: Catskills, NY

This beautiful getaway along Catskill Creek offers a variety of micro-properties in which you can enjoy a relaxing vacation with gorgeous views and friendly neighbors — they have resident goats, ducks and chickens!

  • Mt. Hood Tiny House Village: Outside Portland, Oregon

This resort has seven truly tiny homes (the largest is apparently 260 square feet) that can accommodate between three and seven guests. Yes, that sounds like a residential clown car, but lofted bedrooms and pullout couches make the vision work. They’re located in the heart of hiking country in the Pacific Northwest, so they’d be perfect for an outdoor getaway.

  • WeeCasa: Lyons, Colorado

Twenty-two tiny homes are available at the world’s largest tiny home resort right next to Rocky Mountain National Park. They offer some upscale options, with every house providing a fully stocked kitchenette, luxury bedding and a French press coffee maker.

  • Fireside Resort: Wilson, Wyoming

The tiny homes at this Jackson Hole resort embrace the rugged aesthetic without any of the expected discomforts.

  • Orlando Lakefront: Orlando, Florida

More of a Disney fan than an outdoorsy type? You can stay in this resort in Orlando that is “re-imagining the classic RV park.” You can either rent a tiny home stocked with essentials, or drive your own tiny home onto a rented lot.

Top image by imaginima from Getty Images Signature, via Canva.com

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