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Moving into a tiny house

September 9th, 2016 - 8:26 AM

The tiny house movement

Though living in small structures is nothing new (think studio apartments, tenements or even frontier housing), the trend of living in a “tiny house” has made a resurgence in recent years.  The desire to control finances, have a lower impact on the environment and spend less time cleaning and more time living, has led many people to trade in their 1,500-2,000 square foot homes for a smaller place.

small house movement


Is living in a small house right for me?​

While there is some debate on what makes a home “tiny” and not “small,” many micro homes measure in at around 500 square feet. Living in one will require a big commitment, so to help you determine if a tiny house is a good choice, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my family small enough? While living with a spouse may not be an issue, adding children to the mix could create an unpleasant situation. Everyone needs some alone time and privacy, so make sure your family will be OK living in close quarters before you commit to a small house.
  • Am I only motivated by the desire to save money? While it’s true that tiny homes can provide reduced mortgage payments and utility bills, they do require most people to completely overhaul their way of life. If saving money is your motivation (and not the desire to live with less), you might want to try some cost-saving alternatives you can easily implement instead.    
  • Do I live a fairly minimalist lifestyle? If you enjoy decorating your entire house for holidays or having people over for dinner parties, a tiny house may not be right for you. Consider how much of your lifestyle revolves around things you’ll need space for before making a decision.

If you have doubts about living in a small house, consider renting one for a few weeks. This will help you know if you’re ready to make the change or if you should just downsize a little.

Downsizing tips

One of the first things you’ll need to do before moving into a tiny house is reduce the number of things you own. Three easy things to focus on are furniture, clothing and kitchen supplies:

Furniture

Many tiny house plans include built-in furniture to maximize space. If that’s the case with your home, you can probably eliminate many items. Focus on keeping furniture that is multifunctional – like a chair you can relax in and use at a desk or a table you can eat at and work on. Cutting out items that don’t serve a big purpose will help reduce clutter.

Clothing

A capsule wardrobe (a few essential items that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits) is one of the best things to have when living in a small space. By investing in pieces that won’t go out of style, and making sure all items coordinate, you can save room and still feel like your wardrobe is fresh every week. To get a feel for how much space you'll have for clothing, try purchasing a wardrobe box and using it as a temporary closet to help you decide what to keep. Once you know that you have everything you need, you can donate or sell your other outfits.

Kitchen supplies

If you’re having a hard time paring down your kitchen items, try forcing yourself to realize what you actually use on a weekly basis. Here’s how:

  • Get a box and place it on your counter
  • Any time you use a kitchen tool, place it in the box

At the end of the week, you’ll have a box of your essential kitchen items. Consider keeping expensive or custom kitchen supplies if you have room, but don’t worry too much about getting rid of items you didn’t place in the box.  After all, your cooking routine probably isn’t that different from week to week, and many tools are simply convenient, not necessary.

It may be hard to get rid of things you’ve had for many years, but, if you want to reduce your belongings, you’ll have to try to keep your emotions out of the decision-making process. Try giving sentimental items to friends or family, and consider getting rid of other items in a moving sale – extra cash is always a good thing! You can also take pictures of cherished items so that you can reminisce anytime. 

Guidelines for tiny homes

Despite their size, tiny houses can cause big problems if you aren’t aware of the regulations. Doing some research before you start spending money will help ensure you don’t have delays or, even worse, find out you can’t put the house where you planned.

Zoning laws

Every city, township and county has different zoning laws that dictate things such as where businesses and houses can be located and how big they need to be. These standards are set for a number of reasons, but all can affect where you’re able to put your tiny house. Check with the local zoning office to get the laws for your area. Some may necessitate that you build on a foundation, and others have a minimum square footage requirement. Get everything in order before you start so you can be sure to do it right.

Building codes

Just like any other building, tiny homes have certain criteria they have to meet before they’re considered safe.  If you’re planning to build a tiny house on wheels, the National Organization of Alternative Housing is a good resource.  They can inspect each phase of the building process and help you make sure the house meets safety standards.  Homes built on foundations will need to meet local building codes, state modular housing codes and/or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations. Talking to local builders and checking with the city planning department will help you understand the requirements for your area.

Financing options

There are a few different ways to pay for a tiny house, but not all of them will work for every situation. For example, there are many articles online about how to pay for your house with an RV loan, but that only works if the builder has been classified as an RV manufacturer and your house fits the definition of an RV (mainly that it will only be used as temporary housing). If you’re planning on making this a permanent move, you’ll need to go a different route.

Other financing options include traditional bank loans (if you meet the criteria), or funding the project yourself. There are also a few peer-to-peer lending sites that aim to make it easier for tiny house owners to get funding from third-party lenders. No matter which option you try, do research to be sure you’re signing up for a legitimate service.

How to move to a micro house

Once you’ve decided to live in a tiny house and have gone through the process of building or buying one, it’s time to move in. But since many moving services are intended for people with larger homes, it may be difficult to find one that can affordably move the few belongings you’ve decided to keep. Even the smallest size rental truck might be too large for your move – so, where does that leave you?

Good news! Getting items to a tiny house is easy with U-Pack®. Our ReloCube containers were designed with small moves in mind – simply load your belongings into one and we’ll deliver the container to your new location for a price that’s comparable to truck rental. Our transit times average just 2-5 business days, but storage is available if you need more time. Get a quote online or call a moving consultant at 800-413-4799 to see how much your move will cost.

Questions about mini homes

Do you have additional questions about tiny homes or how to move with U-Pack? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you right away.

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