Dear PAD: How Do I Start My Tiny House Journey?

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People ask us all sorts of questions about houses and home, and sometimes there are no easy answers. Sometimes all we can do is share a story, a perspective, or a bit of advice. So when people ask us something we find particularly thought-provoking, we’re going to try answering “advice column” style in a series of posts called “Dear PAD.” This response is from Billy, author of the Life in a Tiny House Ebook.

Dear PAD,

My goal for the new year is to move into my own tiny home.  But…how do I start the journey?
Sincerely,
Wondering Where to Begin

Dear Wondering,

We get variations on this question all the time: “I’ve been following the movement for years, and I want to make my tiny house dream a reality…but how do I start?” I think of it this way: You start your journey by building your confidence, and you finish by building your house.

When I interviewed ten tiny households for my Life in a Tiny House Ebook, there was only one question that everyone answered in the exact same way: when I asked if they ever doubted their decision, they all said no. They were all absolutely certain that moving into a tiny house was the right decision for them at the time. Everyone encountered challenges, but no one had any doubts.

Developing this confidence is the real first step in the process, because it will carry you through everything that comes afterward.

After interviewing and speaking with hundreds of people grappling with this issue over the past few years, these are the concrete first steps I’ve seen work for others that will build your confidence and get you started on the path to building and living in a tiny house of your own.

house truck interior

John in the house truck he built after trying out small space living in his conventional home.

Try It Out

Many of the people I interviewed either proved their ability to live in a very small space at some point in the past – by living in a trailer, or a small studio apartment – or got comfortable with it by experimenting on themselves. To prepare to live in a house truck, John moved into the smallest room in his house, and tried storing all his food in a miniature refrigerator to see how it changed his cooking habits. Whether you rent a house at the Caravan: the Tiny House Hotel or hang a sheet wall in your living room to make a tiny test environment, a little playing house can teach you some pretty important lessons about what will and won’t work for you.

Collect Knowledge

If you want to build a house yourself, study up, because in some ways, building a tiny house can be trickier than building a conventional home. Read the how-to manuals, study different types of plans, watch videos. Learn about construction in general, and about the unique building challenges that tiny houses present. You don’t have to learn everything before you start – many people learn as they go – but you have to prove to yourself that you’ve got the gumption to learn what you need to when you need to. Even if you want to hire a builder, learn enough to choose one who knows what they’re doing, and can build you something that will stay safe, warm and dry. You can read our tips about that in How to Choose a Tiny House Builder.

Some knowledge is free – there are a lot of great blog posts and resources you can review with no cost or risk at all. But some knowledge has a price tag – and that can be valuable in more ways than one. Free tiny house plans are a great way to get your feet wet with what plans even look like. But purchasable plans like our Sweet Pea or Shelter Wise’s Cider Box tend to have been custom built for real clients, so they’ve had their kinks worked out, and have been proven to work for real live people like you.

Dee explaining her house's layout at a PAD Workshop. Photo via Chris Tack.

Dee explaining her house’s layout at a PAD Workshop. Photo via Chris Tack.

In every one of our Tiny House Basics Workshops, many people share that they’re attending because, “This is how I’m starting.” They come for a deep dive into tiny house design and building that they can’t get anywhere else, they come to get thorough answers to the questions that still linger after their research, and they come to prove to themselves that they’re serious. They come for all that, and they often leave with a surprise….

Find Community

Many of our workshop attendees share that something that surprised them about the workshop was how good it felt to find out that they’re not alone in their tiny house journey, and that meeting other people who share their goals had a value all of its own. Real live, local, in-person support can help in a thousand ways – you can help each other lift sheets of plywood, and share knowledge, ideas and time. And while online communities can’t hand you the screwgun when you’re on a ladder, they can build your confidence in other important ways. Online communities like Tiny House People can provide a support boost too, and point you to resources that have helped others.

You can find inspiration in stories as well. Dee shares her story in The Big Tiny, and this excerpt pulls from a chapter of tales specifically about how she started her tiny home. I wrote Life in a Tiny House in part to fill some of that same need, to share stories that function like an experienced friend who could bolster your confidence. The people I interviewed were once fumbling with the idea, researching composting toilets and reading window instruction manuals, just like you, and now they have a house to show for it. It can be done. Whether your support network is in-person, online or in stories, the important thing is to develop the feeling that you can do this, and ideally, that there’s someone you can reach out to when you stumble.

Having fun at a PAD Tiny House Workshop

Finding community at a PAD Tiny House Workshop.

So get to it! Play a little make-believe, and test out the tiny house experience on yourself. Look at some plans and try to figure them out. Build a spice rack and see if you want to build anything bigger. Invest in some resources or education, and hold yourself accountable for using them wisely. Get connected or inspired by what other people have done, and picture yourself doing it.

If you do some of those things, Wondering, then you’ve already started your journey. And if you’re certain that this is what you want, then you just might have the confidence and certainty it takes to keep going.

Cheers,

Billy from PAD

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