Tiny Living: Is It For You?

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Photo © Caravan

by Allen Cox

Downsizing.When it comes to our homes, it can be a scary thought. Home is that hallowed space where we spend a good chunk of our time, where we store our belongings and where we entertain and share square footage with family and pets. But some Americans are taking a long, hard look at how much square footage they actually need to house their lifestyles.

Enter the tiny house, a structural concept that’s ascended to reality show, internet and magazine cover fame. It’s even risen to the status of a “movement.” Living in a tiny house may not be for everybody, but it has definite appeal for those willing to examine and even experiment with the material trappings of day-to-day life, whether it’s the primary residence or a vacation home.

Can you live in a space that’s 500 square feet or smaller (the common definition of a tiny house)? There’s one way to find out. Take one for a test run.

Try Before You Buy

This is a sound principle, especially with bigger purchases. That’s why we test drive a new car before signing on the dotted line and why we taste fine wine before buying a case. When it comes to a  new living space, the try-before-you-buy rule isn’t so easy to execute. You usually have to imagine yourself and all your belongings neatly tucked away, everything in its proper place.

In the Northwest, those considering the shift to a tiny house lifestyle do the next best thing to buying one. Vacation in one. Sure, you’ll still have to imagine what would fit into a confined, yet well-organized space, but by putting skin in the game, for even a weekend, you’ll emerge from your tiny vacation rental a more informed person when it comes to tiny living.

One resort renting tiny vacation houses is Tiny House Village (constructed by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company) at Mt. Hood Village Resort in Oregon. This newly opened collection of five tiny living spaces, ranging between 175 and 260 square feet, offers guests a chance to experience the back-to-basics lifestyle associated with tiny house living while enjoying an adventure-filled stay in the mountains of northern Oregon. From tall, modern Atticus to bright, girly Savannah, each of the homes exudes its own distinct personality. Coming back more than once to stay in multiple tiny houses just might inspire your vision of the type and design of tiny house that’s right for you. To reserve your tiny house at Mt. Hood Village Resort, go to mthoodtinyhouse.com; to learn more about visiting Mt. Hood Territory, go to mthoodterritory.com.

About an hour away from Mt. Hood, Portland is home to Caravan: The Tiny House Hotel. Here, you can stay in any one of six tiny houses, ranging from 120 to 170 square feet, each one a different design from the next. Caravan is located in Northeast Portland, close to numerous restaurants and entertainment, and is only 15 minutes from the airport. To check out Caravan, go to tinyhousehotel.com.

Wheels or No Wheels

When it’s time to build your own tiny house, first consider some crucial basics: mobility, your lifestyle, and whether you’ll be on or off the grid. People are drawn to tiny house living not only to simplify day-to-day life, but also to make a shift in managing finances. Living tiny costs less, in home price, maintenance and utilities. Also consider whether you can settle for a prebuilt tiny house or whether a custom construction would better suit you.

From your experience vacationing in a tiny house, consider the square footage you think you’ll require. (Remember, you’ll likely have to do without that king bed and big screen TV.) Can you manage a loft with a ladder or must the layout be on a single level? What are your priorities in home life: cooking, lounging, desk space, gear storage? Make sure you match your lifestyle priorities with your space requirements.

Also, consider how mobile you want your home to be. Tiny houses can be built on a foundation or with wheels to be hauled from location to location.

Regardless of your own motives for exploring tiny house living, go small only when you’re certain it’s the right fit for you.