Living in a Tiny Home: Benefits & Drawbacks

Benefits and drawbacks of living in a tiny home.

ByABC News
November 26, 2012, 7:10 AM

Nov. 26, 2012 — -- Imagine walking in the door to your home and, with a single glance, being able to see your entire living space. Before you is the bedroom, the kitchenette, the bathroom, and a small living room. Every item has a specific purpose and place, and you own nothing that you don't use, need or want. And cleaning your home from top to bottom takes less than an hour.

Spending time in your home means living closely with your spouse or partner. Instead of watching TV or reading in separate rooms, you do these activities together. Your energy bills are minimal because there's less space to heat and cool, and you waste less food because you don't have a large fridge or pantry where it can get lost. As a result, you save a significant amount of money each month.

In Photos: Tiny Homes

When you look at it this way, living in a home that's less than 500 square feet sounds simple, frugal, and blissfully stress-free. Living in a tiny home does have compelling benefits, but it is not without its challenges as well.

Benefits of Tiny Homes

There are plenty of good reasons why some people choose to live in a home that's less than 250 to 500 square feet. These homes consist of only a few rooms--usually a kitchen, living area, and bedroom. Other tiny homes are completely open, like a studio.

If you live in New York City, it's almost a necessity to have a space this small. But others are choosing this lifestyle willingly because of the many benefits it offers:

1. Less Clutter. When you have a tiny home, filling it full of "stuff" is not an option, at least not if you actually want space to move around in. When your home is small, you have to make some hard choices about what to keep, and what to get rid of. This means you can't go out and buy frivolous items whenever you're feeling bored or blue.

Fivecoat-Campbell's tiny lake home (Courtesy Kevin Pieper for Mother Earth News)

The couple had plenty of furniture and other possessions they'd accumulated over 20 years of marriage. And with her mother's passing, Fivecoat-Campbell also had another houseful of treasures that she found it difficult to part with. Paring down all these possessions to live comfortably in such as small space was no easy task, especially in the first few months, and it's still something that she struggles with.

"I had to pick and choose not only what I loved and wanted to keep, but the items had to also serve a purpose in a small space," Fivecoat-Campbell says. "We don't have the luxury of having hall trees and vases sitting around for looks. My mom's favorite reading lamp is now my bedside lamp, and her antique dresser is our one and only dresser. An antique dry sink is a coffee station in my office space. We're still dealing with some of the stuff, what to give away to charity and what is worth selling. It's a process."

A Full House

Another challenge is the couple's six dogs, all which have been rescued from either the side of the road or the local animal shelter. Fortunately, the mild weather in Arkansas allows many of the dogs to lounge on the front porch much of the day, but everyone sleeps inside at night, which can be "quite a game of Twister," Fivecoat-Campbell states. But, she wouldn't have it any other way.

Over the years, the couple has added to their living space in the form of extra buildings. They built a small storage shed and basement on the property, which also doubles as a tornado shelter. Here, Fivecoat-Campbell stores many items she can't bear to part with yet. She also works at home as a full-time writer, blogging about her life and the strategies for living in a tiny home, at Living Large In Our Little House. So, she and her husband also constructed a small building to use as an office.

A Better Life

Although there has been a big learning curve to living in such a small space, Fivecoat-Campell doesn't dream of transitioning to a larger house anytime soon, if ever. She loves living in such a small home because it's actually brought her and her husband closer together.

"I love the fact that my husband and I sit in the same room and watch the same shows on television, or have a reading time at the same time. At our larger house in the city, he would usually retreat to the family room, while I went to the bedroom to watch something different or read in the formal living room. Our large house was keeping us apart and we didn't even realize it."

Tips for Living in a Small Home

There are several ways you can maximize the space of a tiny home. These tips can also help you gain control of the space and clutter of a larger home as well.

1.Head Outside. Fivecoat-Campbell recommends doing whatever you can to maximize your outdoor living space. Being able to cook outside, or enjoy an afternoon thunderstorm on the front porch will make living in such a small space less of a hardship. A large deck or front porch can make the home seem bigger, especially if you like to entertain.