Tiny House Design & Layout

Time for the fun part! YOU get to design exactly where everything goes and how you want your house to flow. What do you care most about? What areas of the conventional home do you deem unnecessary? Do you want a big kitchen or a big living area? Do you want stairs, a ladder, or no loft at all? On that note, one loft or two? This is all personal preference. We started by checking out the plans that already exist and can be purchased online. If you’re interested in checking out a design example from Tiny Home Builders, go here.

List your priorities for your tiny home or your must haves, just as you would before purchasing a home. Are you going to have a washer/dryer, shower or bathtub, mini fridge or standard size? Microwave, stove, or oven? Are you running off solar or grid power? This will determine your ability to use certain appliances. Do you want space for plants? Our second loft was specifically made for plants. Do you want more cabinets or more open space? This depends on how much you are willing to downsize. Where are your clothes going to go? We originally thought well in the bedroom, duh! But, that was not the case at all. Good luck trying to put pants and a shirt on with 3 or 4 feet of headspace while laying down or kneeling. We opted for keeping our clothes in the stairs, a separate “entryway” closet for hanging items, and another “dresser” under the desk.

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I spent weeks drawing different versions of what we wanted our tiny home to look like on graph paper. After we thought we knew how we wanted it, we role played. We taped out the outline of the house and where the walls would be on the floor of the garage. This could be done with chalk on the driveway. We pulled in “stuff” to use in place of key items like stairs, the desk, couch, closet, toilet, shower, the list goes on. This was very useful in visualizing how we would move through the house. We still do a dance every once and a while trying to get around one another, but it actually is quite nice that you “run into” each other. It brings you closer together. You learn how to move together.  Anyway… We finished moving things around, trying multiple versions to see what worked the best. It was still a model so it wasn’t exactly how it is now, but it was definitely helpful.

Note: Plan your windows AHEAD of time! It is easier to build exactly to the size of windows you have, rather than building it and then finding windows to fit your plan. Especially if you plan to go the cheap route and thrift for windows!

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Locate where everything will go: water heater, water collection, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, plumbing and electrical lines, boxes, outlets, switches, EVERYTHING you own or will have in the tiny house.

This is where the Scaling Down comes into play. We downsized and determined exactly where every item we owned was going to go in the tiny house. We tested our progress by piling up everything tiny house-worthy into one room of our home. Draw these items into your plans. Draw your home from every angle. Measure your belongings to make sure they will fit where you think your putting them. Once you have your design of where you want any interior walls and your doors and windows you can start drawing the actual walls, laying out exact measurements for every board and every angle. Once your confident everything is ready to go… YOU ARE READY TO BUILD YOUR OWN TINY HOUSE! Yay! Be excited! You’re in for a fantastic, frustrating, roller coaster of a ride!

Just a reminder: We used the Tiny Home Builders Design & Construction Guide, but if you want more help, there is also an eWorkshop they offer that would surely be beneficial to a beginning builder.

Scaling Down

 

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How much stuff do you have? Can you even guess? I was right there with you! Now, take a step back, breath, and DON’T PANIC! Maybe you love having a device for each task performed in your home or owning every piece of clothing in every color. Well, if you hold no stress with that, then you do not need to read on (unless you want to just for fun). If you are, however, interested in learning how to lighten your load KEEP READING! Whether you want to tackle just one aspect of your life or ALL of it, you can apply these same basic concepts.

For a little background, Grant and I started in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1,500 sq. ft. home with every room FILLED including the garage. He loves tools and I worked at a thrift store. I HOARDED clothing, kitchen equipment, bags, shoes, and craft supplies. You can never have too many skeins of yarn! I think I spent half my paycheck just buying things that I definitely didn’t need. Thank goodness we saw that tiny house documentary or I don’t know where we would be. So how did we do it? How did we manage to get rid of 80% of our stuff and move into 220 sq. ft.?

Challenge: Step One: List all items in each room and consolidate duplicate/ like items to ONE room.

To start, I took post-it notes (or a notebook) and went through each room of the house one by one writing down what items were in each room. I didn’t consider key items like a bed or dresser. See my example below:

Bedroom

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Linens
  • Accessories
  • Books
  • Craft supplies
  • Coats/ Winter gear
  • Skis/ recreation equipment
  • Jewelry

Kitchen

  • Scissors (x2)
  • Pots/Pans/ Plates/ Silverware/ Cups, etc.
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Towels
  • Office supplies: rubber bands, paperclips, pens, paper “Misc. drawer”
  • Food (obviously)
  • Cookbooks
  • Misc. appliances (write them out!)
  • Tape: scotch and packing

Office

  • Office supplies
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Computers
  • Scissors (x2)
  • Tools
  • Clothes
  • Paper shredder
  • Printer/computer
  • Tape/ stapler/ 3-hole punch
  • Exercise equipment
  • Knickknacks

Living Room

  • Electronics/ TV/ DVD/X-Box
  • Movies
  • Books
  • Blankets/ Linens
  • Knickknacks
  • Shoes
  • Coats

Bathroom

  • Towels
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Hygiene items
  • Curling iron
  • Straightener
  • Blow-dryer
  • Jewelry

Garage

  • Exercise equipment
  • Tools of all kinds…
  • Gardening supplies

And, the list goes on…

By doing this in each room and then comparing the lists you can pinpoint if you have duplicate items or if you are using multiple rooms for similar items. For example, we found out we had four pairs of scissors in two different rooms. What? Walk the 10 ft. to another room to use the scissors?! It didn’t cross my mind until we moved into the tiny house we only need one spot for a scissors thereby reducing our scissor total to one all-purpose pair in the office. I promise getting things organized and into a single place in your home will help eliminate the recurring question, “Where is it?”

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Challenge: Step Two: Room by room, toss anything forgotten or unused (And, by toss I mean donate to a second-hand store).

Perhaps you had clothing in three rooms. This could be a hint that you have TOO MUCH! The second part of this challenge will be to downsize to the point where all similar things are in a single room. I did one big sweep at the beginning knowing there were things I hadn’t touched in months/ years.

Rule of Thumb: If you forgot you had it or just haven’t used it in a year, donate it! Get it out of your house!

I was horrible at the “Well, I might use it someday” mantra everyone tells themselves. Do not question yourself. You have been telling yourself this too long. You obviously aren’t and won’t use it. Do not hold yourself back. It does not actually bring you happiness to own a sweater you never wear or a book you never read! Grab a garbage bag and start tossing!

Challenge: Step Three: Do it again. And again. And again. And again. 

The third and final step is continuous. After you have gotten rid of all the obviously unnecessary items it will be a recurring task to KEEP THE BALANCE in your house. Wait a month after completing step two. After some time has past, you will most likely have forgotten about a few items you still have lying around. Go back through EVERY room eliminating more items that have been forgotten or have not been used. Now, repeat this process weekly for the rest of your life. I can now keep tabs on everything I own. I can quickly identify when I really NEED something that is “missing” from my daily routine or when an item I have purchased recently just isn’t making the cut. Let go of the meaningless junk and hold on to the precious time we have. Use your money for something better (like a vacation)!

I learned these pointers and more from the wonderful bookThe 100 Thing Challengeby Dave Bruno. I know 100 things!! Sounds impossible! I’m still on my way to hitting that number myself.

Please join me in scaling down our lives and our stress levels. If you have any questions regarding how to achieve the steps mentioned above please contact me!

Think you are ready for the tiny life? View the next post: Tiny House Trailer Hunting.