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Tiny house solution for couple that plans on having children?  RSS feed

 
Rosa Bo
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We're a young couple that wants to live off-grid, mortgage-free, and balance homesteading with making some money through the Internet (the latter is already happening). We never had the chance to save much money, unfortunately, so anything above €10.000 (≈ $11.260) would be a little hard to realise. (We currently don't have any bills as we live with our parents.) So... I keep thinking of tiny houses, because they have so many great aspects: No need to buy expensive land with planning permission, tiny houses themselves are not incredibly expensive (especially when self-built), and it's possible to move them to a different location should this be necessary. Yes, they are small, but both of us prefer staying in one room anyway. We like compactness and cosiness. We're also used to staying very close to each other in the same space, which doesn't bring up any irritations.
But there is ONE aspect that is rather critical... Getting a baby is something we hope to experience a couple of years, like four, from now. And raising a family is not exactly something that a tiny house seems ideal for. Especially as the baby becomes a toddler and older, a typically sized tiny house would IMO be unethical. There's not even space for a child's personal room, I imagine! (Or maybe I underestimate the size of a tiny house...) So, from that perspective, living in a tiny house seems impossible.
Sure we can't be the only people interested in tiny houses as well as procreating? Is there a reasonable solution to this? The main issue is the narrow width of the home. If only this could be doubled (or at least 3m instead of 2.20m), there wouldn't be such an issue, since many tiny houses are actually quite long. I just can't imagine living comfortably in a 2.20m tiny house with a vibrant kid around me. Are there any families who do this at all?
Anyway, I figured that 2.20m has to do with the legal maximum on the road. Is there still a way to create a wider tiny house, which still comes with the legalities of a portable home? (Even though it can't be transported as a whole.) Or is the only solution making it extra long (like 10m ≈ 33ft) by a regular width?
Anything that is seen as a regular, fixed house is not an option for us. Building land is beyond our budget. That's why we're so fond of the tiny house concept.

I really hope there is a child-friendly alternative!
 
Roberta Wilkinson
Posts: 175
Location: Washington Timber Country
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You could try to come up with a DIY method of replicating the bump-out sections of high end RVs, so that the home could be made compact for transport and then expanded when parked. That introduces a lot of water/weather proofing problems to be solved, though.

I would think that the main way to make this work with a kid, and even for an adult, is to plan to spend most of your time outside. Maybe you could bring a collapsible awning to set up outside so even in wet weather there would be room to stretch out.

As for a kid's own room, I'm imagining a design with a central high-ceilinged room that's your sitting/kitchen. There would be a bathroom at the back, with a "master" sleeping loft above. The front could have a covered porch, with another small sleeping loft for a kid in the eaves above. Curtains could provide privacy to one or both lofts.
 
Kat Green
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I lived in a 28 ft travel trailer with my then about 4-8 yr old daughter. It had a living room in front, then a kitchen, walk thru bedroom, and then a bathroom. The bedroom had a double bed on one side and closets on the other that extended from the bathroom into the kitchen. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo on one side with the sink in the middle and another good size closet on the other side. I sacrificed 3feet of the living room at the front to make a wall with a bunk on the other side and a playhouse below that contained my daughters many toys. I even recycled hardwood flooring for free and installed it throughout. I had an adorable apt size antique stove. There were no pop outs or outside patio covers. I loved it and we were very comfortable. I am planning another tiny home now for my retirement. It all depends on how it is laid out. I used graph paper to draw out floor plans until I was satisfied. I designed it around my furniture and things I love. Go RV window shopping at commercial lots or shows to get ideas. There are many tiny house websites online. tinyhousenation.com, tinyhousetalk.com and tinyhouseswoon.com are my favorites.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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There are a few YouTube videos on this subject. What I can remember from them:

Outdoor living space: either a fold out roof for a covered porch, an rv awning, or a gazebo tent. Depends on your weather and bugs.

Sleeping space: pull out day beds, hammock, crib in the peak of the loft over your feet, mini loft for kids instead of storage. Bigger issue is pregnancy, there comes a point when a pregnant woman can't safely get out of a loft. You have to have a main floor sleeping option.

It is dealing with the "stuff" of kids that takes a mental toughness. How to not get buried in toys. Dealing with muddy boots and clothes. Airing out diapers. Those kind of things.
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
Posts: 597
Location: Victoria BC
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There have been tinyhomes built to expand; I saw video of one which expanded out to both sides, as well as up, ending up as a 2-story dwelling that was maybe 22ft wide.

But... it looked like a HUGE pain in the ass and much more expensive to build, plus there was significant hassle factor in moving it it, as it would need to be emptied as well as collapsed to travelling mode. And I have my doubts about how well it would stand up long-term.


Depending on location outdoor living space can be a major thing. A big awning, some scavenged carpet, and a screen-room to keep the bugs off...

I would think a kid would love a loft bedroom of their own, and if you build your initial tinyhome to be 24-30ft long instead of the most common 20ft, you'll have plenty of length for 2 lofts with some full height space in between.


And finally, if you run out of space and aren't moving around too often, you could always build another one, to fill whatever need you have. Studio with storage space below, child bedroom, guesthouse, whatever. Plan ahead while building and interconnect the two units, or just have an awning between them. Make the second one capable of loading onto a flatbed truck, and use a single vehicle to move both at once...
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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These folks are living on a 44' boat with a toddler and infant twins. They have some pretty interesting solutions on their blog.

Permies member Walter Jeffries and his family built a 252 sq foot house. They have 3 children.

There's an old stone house near us where the family lived for a year with their eight children.

It can work however you want. People have been raising perfectly adjusted children in tepees and wigwams for millennia. If you want to plan to expand, that's a solution. You could build and plan to move when the children's needs change. If you want to live in a yurt, that's a solution too. Sounds like you and your partner have lots to talk about.
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I have always liked the Tiny House design, Bodega. It is not a 'mobile' that stays within the 8.5 foot limit; but is small and compact. It is also expandable with a room out back; and with a little carpentry work (especially in advance) can have a room added to either side as time goes on.

Tiny House - Bodega

 
Rosa Bo
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Wow, so many helpful replies!! Thank you for your supportive attitudes. There are definitely ideas I had not considered yet, and I will take them into account. That Bodega house looks lovely, indeed!

Also, sometimes I almost forget about spending time outside during spring and summer. You can create a nice playground for kids - in fact, it's probably better to them than living in a somewhat bigger apartment in a bustled, crowded city with no child-friendly areas nearby... Putting up some sort of garden pavilion would be a good idea for rainier days.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Rosa,

I new the folks on this forum would all echo similar perspectives and offerings, as to advice in "small architecture" and living in it. The vernacular to a region and circa date, by its nature is much smaller than many modern homes. I would also suggest that "culturalization" has much to do with how we perceive the concept of..."comfortable living space"...as to what it actually may be. Because of the way I was raised as a child, I didn't wear shoes 99.9% of the time until after the age of 13, and then only 50% of the time. We cooked, ate, socialized, worked, and slept outside 80% of the time, and this "sleeping habit" has persisted to this day to 360 out and maybe 5 days inside.

Having a roof and walls is a concept. If can be cloth, timber, or stone...or none at all, depending on the situation. I think "nest" first when thinking of children, and there is nothing wrong with "more exposure" as long as not in the direct line of impact with the elements. The separating material can be as simple as a piece of cloth, most of the time, or even just grass, and sticks and a ground cloth...as has been for millenia. This is not to suggest that more solid roof and walls don't have merit...they do, yet I would suggest there is more room for interpretation than many understand, and too often our species as late has "boxed" itself into very narrow parameters of thinking when they want 4 walls and a roof...

Hope that has some value to your thinking about this.

Regards,

j
 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1091
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Families and tiny houses are quite compatible. We have a tiny cottage of about 252 sq-ft for our family of five which we have lived in for almost a decade. We built it in 2005 because it was what we could built rather because of any 'tiny house movement' fad. The cost was $7,000 for all materials. We did all the labor, closing in the building in about two months of intense work in the fall. We love it.

Our house is built of masonry inside a good insulating envelope. This provides a high thermal mass, about 100,000 lbs, that stores the days heat from passive solar gain and from our tiny wood stove. Because of the design the house floats at about 45°F if unheated even in our cold northern Vermont mountain winters (USDA zone 3). With the 0.75 cord of hardwood maple we burn each winter it keeps the cottage warm but it doesn't overheat. We do hot fast burns that store the heat in the masonry mass. No fires are needed over night. No air conditioning is needed as it stays cool in the summer.

Maintenance is also minimal because of the design and construction and the taxes are trivial as the town values the house very low because it is small, owner built and masonry construction. I read the tax assessment rules before building so I could keep our taxes low since they're an ongoing annual expense. Being easy to clean (masonry) means less time spent cleaning which makes it easier for a family. (Spill on the floor? It's easy to clean up!)

There are things that make it work for a family. First of all is we spend a lot of our time outdoors, especially in the warm seasons. I designed the acoustics to soak up sound (rough surfaces, shape of the surfaces, etc). Headphones are useful for blocking out sound and used for listening to music to not disturb other people. Lastly, perhaps most importantly, teach and demonstrate respect, responsibility and appreciation.

You can see our cottage at:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/cottage

From there you'll find links to articles about how we built it.

We built our tiny butcher shop using the same basic principles. Another family project.

Something to do is to design the building with expansion in mind should you ever want to do so.

We do have very little "stuff" in our cottage. Tools, farming things, etc are outdoors in sheds. The house is very function specific. Quiet things like sleeping, reading, cooking, eating, quiet play, family music, etc.

Cheers,

-Walter
in Vermont
 
Korie Veidel
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I live in an 8x18 tiny house on wheels with my husband and we are expecting our first child. We've lived here for 6 months.

I do not recommend pursuing a tiny house unless you have somewhere to park it. And you should be prepared to pay rent for the land on which you park it. Tiny house parking seems to run from 250-600 per month depending om location. Monthly campground rental seems to run around the same. Used travel trailers are usually much more affordable. I would consider a used travel trailer and rehabbing the interior for the most cost effective option.

We chose a THOW because we already had a place to put it and because we live in a cold climate and four season travel trailers are really expensive.

Anyways, it is definitely possible to have a tiny house on wheels with a child! Check out www.minimotives.com. She has a toddler and one on the way. While I a, confident that we could accommodate a single baby in our size house, I don't think we would be able to have an older child or multiple children comfortably, especially considering that we live in a cold climate.

One option that we have is to purchase another tiny house and connect the two with a screened in porch. Andrew Morrison has a similar set up for his family of four, including two teenagers. I would place the two houses in a long line, and add an exterior outhouse off of the screened porch as well. Our current tiny house would be converted into a sleeping quarters, with our bed in the loft (as it is now) and the entire downstairs converted into a bedroom/playroom for the kids. The second tiny house would be larger (8x24) and contain a kitchen, dining room, and living room, as well as two lofts. When the kids get older, we will move our bedroom into the bigger tiny house and the oldest kiddo would have the loft as his bedroom.

That's about two years off, so hopefully we will have time to build up some savings to make it happen!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Parking a tiny house is getting harder and harder. Lots of places are putting in rules you can't live more than X days a year on a piece of land without building a permanent home. Mainly so they can tax you more.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Bumping this thread for Dan's expert opinion!
 
Fianou Oanyi
Posts: 24
Location: Australia
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I wanted to throw in my thoughts:
I don't live in a tiny house, but we are hoping to build one soon. So I have been figuring out a lot how to do this with a growing family. It won't be a house on wheels, too pricey in australia, but small and affordable. I have given a lot of thought to this. Mostly because we don't have heaps of money, but also because we just don't use the space in a typical house. We have grown to a small family with 2 kids and we still only sleep in one room. I think the thing I have come to is to forget the dogma and the "tiny house movement" but take the inspiration to only have a house as big as what you need. There is a lot of wasted space in a typical house. I think for inspiration design the house like a small apartment. Have heaps of storage planned into it to. We have been downsizing and organising. We currently live in a 3 bedroom house and we literally only use the bathroom/laundry/ kitchen/lounge/ and one bedroom. We are always squeezed into one room together. Kids don't want to be on their own, they always want to hang out with you. I have figured out that our dream house would have one bedroom/sleeping loft, small bathroom (a small bath is helpful with kids), a family WIR/linen, an open living space, and a small galley kitchen that at least accommodates a large fridge and decent sized pantry. It can be open to the living area, but needs to be a bit more than what you see in a tiny house. I would also like a patio or veranda and would keep the washing machine out there. I guess if the kids need their own room down the track we could add on another room. I'd probably want a spot for shed storage and to keep some keepsakes. I keep a few boxes of clothes the kids will use down the track. Its not necessary to hold on to it all, but I like to keep it and save and reuse stuff, especially as I sewed a lot of it myself. I keep shoes! They cost a bomb and they grow fast so its great to have bigger shoes on hand for the next kid. At this point we don't know how many kids we want. But i aim for something that could eventually accommodate 6 kids if need be. I like what Ross Chapin has designed for his pocket neigbhourhoods. They are a good size for a family. Rather than separate rooms for everything they utilise nooks for extra space. So a one bedroom house can have a nook for a study that could be enough space for a bunk bed instead, plus a little loft provides storage or extra sleep space. Its a good approach that you might like. If I thought the kids needed their own room, I probably would only consider a little spot for a bed. They won't play on their own in their room. I also think its important to balance tight space with open space. If its all too tight it will feel crazy uncomfortable and crowded. But some spaces can be tight and well organised like the bathroom, storage, kitchen, sleeping. I guess the living space is the main thing I'd like to have open and spacious and not over crowded with storage. I'd also have some massive doors to open to the outdoors and give more space. A good indoor/outdoor connection with kids is really helpful!
I thought if the kids need more room as teenagers we can add some space. They can build their own tiny! And take it with them if/when they leave home. They can park it elsewhere on our property and start their own tiny house compound. Maybe you could have a little compound of tiny's or two connected by a veranda?
The thing about kids and stuff is not necessarily true. I don't think kids need to own more than they can look after as in pack away easily. So the baby has 2 baskets of clothes/including cloth nappies. My son has a little cube storage and one special box of treasures. Their toys fit into the buffet in our lounge. I have embraced the Konmari method of decluttering/organising. I guess if I had to quantify it we each have about a suitcase of clothes. We have 2 pairs of shoes each. I have 2 sets of sheets only per bed. A small number of muslins and washers and towels. Now, this isn't about living some sort of idealogical life of austerity, I'm not into that, but honestly its just so much easier and less work to have less stuff to keep track of. I decided we can't own more stuff than I can remember where it is, because somehow "Mama" is the master "keeper of all the things". Kids don't need stuff, and kids don't need their own room. My kids have always slept with us. My oldest is 5 now and has his own bed pushed against ours. I think I'd need a sleeping space ( without wardrobes, just space to sleep) big enough to fit 2 double beds. I'd like to get 2 ensembles ( no frame) and push them together.
When you have kids the first thing is to not allow people to give you too much stuff! Train your family and friends to give your kids experiences not stuff, a trip to the zoo etc...
The other awesome thing is the toy library. I don't know if your community has that, but mine does. My kids could really just get a new toy out each week and take it back and get something new. They don't even really need to have toys then. But they have a set of duplo and lego that gets used heaps. The toy library is great for novelty toys that you get bored with quickly or large toys that take up lots of room. We were given heaps of toys at my sons first birthday, we just didn't have the room so we gave a lot to the library. Avoid toys that a child can't use in open ended play. If its too narrow in its range of play or it just entertains,is a novelty, it needs batteries, or its flimsy plastic its not worth having.
Living small with a family needs thoughtfulness about what you have and what you do.
Check out these. A "tiny" house for a family may not be as small as the tiny's they show on the webs that couples and singles use, but they will still be real small. I have found though, that actually its not always cheaper to be crazy tiny.
[url=]http://rosschapin.com/plans/cottages/[/url]
 
Jessica Crowder
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I agree with Fianou Oanyi in saying there is a lot of wasted space in a typical house. The hardest thing for me in your dilemma is the narrow width. My family (husband and child) have stayed in a WeatherPort yurt before as we went camping and that was a great experience. Ever since we've thought about living in one and they aren't too expensive especially considering the amount of money you have saved. For me, if you want a child, a yurt is a great option and you could look into getting a 20' to 30' one and make due with the space in your own way. The downsides are noise (rain can be really loud) and cooling (depending on where you live). We dream of yurt living so I'd love to hear back on whatever you decided to do!


 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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The most important part of owning a tiny home is where do you put it? Finding a place to put it that is safe and stable, unless you own the land, becomes a rental expense. Rental expenses are just lost money. You'll never see that money again, and it doesn't matter how cheap your tiny house is, paying for where to put is money you could have put into a small, affordable house. Renting 's not economically a good idea because those rental spaces just go up and up and up.

Just because these tiny houses look great on the outside, and look spacious (because they are empty in the photos) on the inside, doesn't mean they are comfortable. You are at the time of life when close quarters are easiest, but you won't have any privacy. None. Daily life stuff will fill it up quickly, unless you are both super neat. It will test everyone's patience.

If I were you, I would put the money into land, into a lot, or a small house that needs fixing up. It is a much better long-term investment because you are talking about children, plural, and stability is half the battle, it makes everything else easier. If you are living with parents they might help you with that kind of investment. Use their expertise, find someplace not too far, so you can still have community, and live with them while you fix your small home or build a tiny one on that land. Parents prefer helping with things look like you could get your money back out of it if you had to. It could be a tiny house that needs a lot of love and attention.

But the practicalities of life wear on us the most, and those are the daily grind of cleaning, tidying, cooking,

Whatever you decide to do, you'll also want a space for a washer and dryer, for wet raincoats and muddy shoes. Laundromats are unbelievably expensive, and not usually nearby. Waiting for laundry to pile up to drag it all down to the laundromat gets old in a hurry, especially if it's full of baby stuff, and possible diapers, depending on how green you want to be. You'll have to have more clothes to last a longer period if you go to the laundromat, and if you are both working, that means doing laundry on weekends. Not fun.

I would say the best advice my parents ever gave me was Plan Ahead, not try to do something expensive in the present that will only end up costing you big time, making you lose money to renting in the future.



 
Beau Brotherton
Posts: 23
Location: Texas
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I need to read through all of the posts as I see that this is from a year ago.  We are also thinking about this, so we'd love to hear what you decided!!! 

We currently have 3 kids with our 4th on the way.  Here is the plan that we currently have been planning on:




I would love love LOVE to hear everyone's thoughts on this plan.  It isn't exactly tiny house...but certainly will be a small house of 800sqft housing 6 people. 
 
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