Downsizing your house does not mean downsizing your life. Laura LaVoie, a North Carolina-based freelance writer and blogger behind Life in 120 Square Feet, shares with us the freedom she has experienced by going tiny.
Can you describe yourself and how you've come to live in a tiny home?
I am a 41-year-old freelance writer living in my tiny home with my partner of 21 years and our 15-year-old hairless cat, Piglet. Our tiny home journey started after we bought some land in Western North Carolina and were trying to decide what to build on it. A friend pointed us toward tiny houses, which seemed like something we could actually build ourselves since it was so small.
Why did you decide to downsize?
This is a complicated question. Ultimately, it came down to a complete lifestyle change. Downsizing, along with reducing our expenses, made it possible. For me, it was to have the courage to quit my job and pursue writing full time. With a large home and a mortgage, I had always felt trapped.
What do you enjoy the most about tiny living?
What I love the most is the way it has allowed us to reconnect with our own lives. It isn’t about the house at all, but about the way we’ve been able to get involved with our community since we’ve been able to simplify our lives and get back some of our time. It has allowed us to pursue new challenges, volunteer and advocate for smaller homes as a means to more affordable living in our city.
Giant Dream Photography
What were some of the difficulties or challenges you had to face when you decided to transition to a tiny home?
Most of the challenges for us were entirely self-imposed. I wanted to pay off my debt before we moved. I needed to quit my job. We had to sell our house in a down market. But we were able to accomplish everything we needed to before going tiny. We spent three years building because we were living and working in Atlanta while the house, on a foundation, was near Asheville, North Carolina. We were only able to work on it every other weekend. We also had to learn how to do everything ourselves.
How did your family and friends react to your decision to go tiny?
I think it is important to understand that going tiny was just one more weird thing in a long list of weird things we’ve done with our lives. We have always been unconventional, so when we told our friends and family that we were building a tiny house, no one seemed surprised. Many of our friends helped us build it.
Has tiny living introduced any major changes to your lifestyle?
The most important was that I could quit my job and write full time. This has allowed me to be in control of my own hours. I never liked the concept of work/life balance. I wanted to achieve work/life integration. We do a lot of traveling now because I can write anywhere.
Financially, would you say that living tiny has helped you?
Finances were the primary motivator for going tiny, so I would say absolutely.
Is there anything that you’d have done differently in terms of design, etc.? Is there anything that you would include now or something you'd like to get rid of?
I used to say that there was nothing I would change. And I do mean that to a degree. I wouldn’t change anything about our experience or the choices we made at the time we made them. They were integral to our journey. But I would do some things differently now if I were starting again. I would make the loft taller (we are on a foundation, so we would have that luxury) and reduce the pitch of the loft roof to give us windows on either side.
Our home is based on an old Tumbleweed Tiny House design. We purchased it directly from Jay Shafer in 2008. Plans for our design don’t exist anymore. I’ve included a picture of the layout, but I do not own this design or the image.
Giant Dream Photography
What advice would you have for people who are thinking to move into a tiny home?
First, I would suggest that someone look into why they want to go tiny. Is it for financial reasons? Simplification? Because they’re cute? Then look at the alternatives to give yourself a better understanding of whether or not this is the right decision. A tiny house isn’t the right choice for everyone, and that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still embrace the philosophy.
If someone wants to build their own, the next thing I would suggest is to practice building something. Anything. A chicken coop. An outdoor shower. A dog house. That will give you an idea of the kind of skills you need to have. We didn’t have any building experience, and by doing a practice build first and then taking the process slow and steady, we ended up with a solid house.
Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to incorporate the “tiny way of life” even if they’re still living in an apartment or a larger house?
I firmly believe that tiny living is a philosophy and not a specific type of house. Anyone can downsize, reduce and simplify. It is all about changing your mindset to understand what is most important for you. Downsizing is a great exercise for anyone in any size home. I think anyone can live more deliberately regardless of where they live.
What have you done yourself and what was done by professionals? Do you have any recommendations in this regard?
We did all of the building by ourselves. Our electrical wiring was run by a master electrician, but he was a friend and volunteered to do it. Otherwise, we would have done that. We also had our neighbor help us out by putting the roof on the house when we couldn’t finish it in time for winter. Otherwise, it was 100 percent us.
I think everyone who approaches tiny homes will have a different skill level and comfort level. There are also so many tiny home builders today, which is a huge difference from when we started our journey back in 2008.
Big Dream Photography