“When my wife and I married, we fell easily into the American Dream of a house with the white picket fence,” says Andrew Odom. “We talked to a bank, and found out how much we were approved for. I was excited, but my wife was petrified. We could buy a house, but we wouldn’t have money for anything else.”
This brush with the modern real estate and banking system shook Odom and his wife, Crystal. Instead of buying the bungalow, they took stock of their situation. At the time, Odom had a low-paying, dead-end job. They couldn’t believe that a bank would approve them for a mortgage that they could barely afford. One financial setback would mean disaster.
“We were put off by the fact that the housing and banking system would allows us to be in that situation,” Odom says. “We started reconsidering what we wanted. We looked at RVs, modulars, yurts, apartments, condos, mobiles, and just about everything else.”
Odom’s life changed, though, when he and his wife came across Tumbleweed Tiny Homes. They decided to get help designing a custom tiny house, and they decided to build it themselves. Odom and his wife began working on the house on May 4, 2012, and moved in on January 4, 2013. They chronicled the project, and offer continuing insight on living in a tiny house, on their web site, Tiny r(E)volution.
Advantages of Living in a Tiny House
One of the biggest benefits of living in a tiny house is the low cost. Odom and his wife were fortunate to receive 1.2 acres of land from a family member, so they had a place for their tiny home immediately; they just pay taxes on the property.
Another strategy that kept the cost even lower was that they did the work themselves — and they built it as they could pay for the supplies. “We paid cash on the barrel,” says Odom. “We bought what we could, or thought ourselves lucky to get a spare piece of lumber.”
Prior to finishing the tiny house, the family lived in a converted woodshed — and it was a family. Odom and his wife have a daughter, who is now two and a half years old. “She’s never known anything but a tiny house,” says Odom. “First the woodshed, and now our completed home.”
The building costs aren’t the only savings from living in a tiny house. Odom points out that all their costs are lower — power, heating, and water all cost less. Additionally, the property taxes are lower with a tiny house sitting on their acreage, rather than a larger, conventional home.
“You also don’t collect a lot of junk,” Odom continues. “There is no such thing as retail therapy for tiny housers. You’d have no place to put all that stuff you spent money on.”
Beyond the financial benefits, Odom also sees lifestyle benefits. “It forces you to get outside,” he says. “You are also closer in your relationships with your family members. You can’t ignore each other.”
Living in a tiny house helps Odom and his family live according to their own priorities. He has a white collar telecommuting job that he does from an 80-square-foot office built in the backyard. They only have the one income, and it allows Crystal to focus on parenting their daughter, and taking care of other things.
“We like to help other people, and we like to travel when we can. And we live debt free,” says Odom. “We couldn’t do things if we were living in a 3,000 square foot home, barely making our mortgage payments.”
Making a Tiny House Work
Of course, it’s not always easy to live in a tiny house. “Many of the advantages are also disadvantages,” Odom says. “You are in a closed space, and you have to limit what you have and what you do with the space.”
However, it is possible to make a tiny house work if you are committed to the lifestyle. The Odom tiny house is custom, and designed around their lifestyle requirements. The house is eight feet wide and 30 feet long, and it’s built on a single level. The front third of the house is devoted to the kitchen. “My wife loves to cook, so we wanted a full-size kitchen,” Odom says.
After the kitchen comes a raised platform that acts as a divider. This platform is where they have the table. “It’s where we eat and hang out,” Odom says. They have a drop-down table, and the platform is large enough that they can entertain. They’ve had 11 people in their house in the past. The platform is also where they have a 19-inch flat-screen TV swivel-mounted to the wall. The use Google Chromecast and high-speed Internet for entertainment needs.
Finally, the back third of the home is the sleeping area. Odom and his wife have an extended queen bed. “There is a sort of half-loft where our daughter sleeps, and beneath that is a closet,” says Odom. “One of the great things about living in a tiny house is that you can customize it to fit your lifestyle.”
However, Odom doesn’t think that they’ll keep everything exactly the same moving forward. As his daughter grows, they consider that they might have to add more to the tiny house. “A house should grow with the needs of the family,” he says. “Though this house is right for us right now, we might need to re-appropriate based on need later. We can add a guest space, or add more space for our daughter.”
In the end, it’s about individual needs and lifestyle goals. “We have to face transition decisions like everyone else,” Odom says. “We’ll keep doing what is right for our family as we grow and change.”