I live in a tiny house that my husband Kenton and I built together. We designed and researched for 8 months, and then we built it for another 8 months with the help of some really cool, really skilled people. So, why?
1. We wanted to live in a house we could actually afford right now.
When we started the project, we had been working at decent jobs for a few years and had saved up a little bit of money, but we had nowhere near the bank you’d need to buy a typical house out of pocket. I mean, building the tiny house hasn’t exactly given us a Scrooge McDuck pool of golden coins to swim around in, but we stayed out of the negative and I can say that we had no mortgage left to pay a year later.
2. We wanted freedom from property.
This one sounds funny, because we do eventually want a piece of land to stick our house on permanently, but something cool about our house being on wheels is that we can roll with whatever comes our way. Get it?! ROLL WITH IT. The house’s wheels roll… I’ll see myself out. Basically, if we ever want to move to another place, we can still keep the house we love that was built for specifically us, and not have to part with it or pay for it again.
3. We wanted to live with less stuff.
Coming from the generation we do, I think we’re millennials?! Yikes, are all those articles about us?! Anyway, existential panic aside… We were raised with the environmental push of the 90s here in Canada. I mean, I can remember being in an elementary school musical singing songs about the effects of polystyrene on the ocean. Box office was sold out, I’m sure. So anyway, Kenton and I both grew up environmentally conscious and we wanted to walk that talk. By moving into a tiny house, we’re reducing our need for things. We don’t even have space for things. And do you want to know a secret? I kept what I really needed and I don’t miss any of the things I got rid of.
4. We wanted lower bills.
Living tiny comes with tiny little house bills. Like what are these, bills for ants?! Is that reference too old now? Can you hear me, kids? Um, so our house costs us very little to run year round. The only resource we chose to use that isn’t renewable is propane, and we tried to build in systems that would reduce even that. So we pay internet, phone, propane and we truck in water. That’s it. And that leads to my next point…
5. We wanted freedom from money.
The best way to make money is to save money, so they say. I think it’s true, though. If you spend less on mortgage and bills, what does that leave you with? Money in that bank! And with mo’ money, mo’ chances to do other stuff with your money! You can invest, you can travel, you can drive a big dumb fancy truck, or you could just… Earn less money. Honestly, that was one of my top reasons for wanting a lower cost of living. I could work less and enjoy my life more. I have had an opportunity to go back to university as a 30 year old, and that wouldn’t be financially possible if I had big fat bills to pay.
6. We wanted to have a cool house that reflected us as people.
OK, this one isn’t the most philanthropic goal we had but it’s still true! Kenton and I are cool. We have people to vouch for our coolness. Our moms might even comment on this post. The truth is, I never wanted an ordinary life with an ordinary house and an ordinary husband. And boy, I did not get those things. Awesome. Since we built this thing ourselves, not only did we learn neat skills and meet an amazing community of also cool people, but we got to make it the house we wanted. We got to choose all the colours, all the whacky transforming furniture, all the sustainable utilities, all the spaces to sleep and play and cook and clean. This house has ended up being an extension of ourselves that we are really proud of.
7. We wanted community.
I have always been the type of neighbour to smile at you across the street without teeth and then go back inside and hope I don’t make eye contact with you for the rest of the day. Not you, specifically, unless Mike is reading this. Sorry, Mike. I have never been a community minded person and I barely knew what that meant. In building this house, though, we ended up gathering around us a bunch of skilled, cool people who were excited to be working on our project. These are people I had never met before, but in the process of building this weird house, they became friends and family to us. We would never have as cool or sleek a place as we do without their countless hours, expertise and lots and lots of beer and pizza.
Now there are lots of other reasons people build tiny houses. Some people build really mobile ones to take on the road when they travel for work. Others want them as a supplementary house to the one they already have so they can cram their mother in law back there or rent it out as a cool novelty bed and breakfast and earn some extra cash. I’ve heard of people building them as vacation homes on the lake, or as a home base to come back to when they spend most of their year travelling abroad.
The thing is, there are as many reasons to build a tiny house as there are tiny houses. Every weirdo who has no idea what they’re getting into picks up a hammer and says, “Yeah, I think I can do this” has a different life, different goals and a different personality and will end up with a different tiny house. That’s the beauty of it. Every person can have a beautiful, functional, financially feasible house that really does check all those individualized boxes.
If you’re wondering if you’re one of us weirdos, you should really come and find out for real. Kenton runs tiny house workshops on the weekends all over the country, and if you don’t see one close to you, email him and see if we can set one up!
Melissa Zerbin is a totally normal person who has lived with her husband in her tiny house since 2016. She loves cats, food, and other humans, and is currently completing her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy.