Living in a "tiny house" - Mothering Forums
Country Living / Off the Grid > Living in a "tiny house"
MommaKitten21's Avatar MommaKitten21 09:43 PM 07-17-2012

Hey ladies,


    So my husband is in the military and is set to deploy very soon. We had a really rough year financially and I really want to surprise him when he gets home from this deployment by being debt free. If I can do this, then he wont have to re-enlist and we can move on to the next chapter of our lives. With that said, I've come up with a semi-crazy idea and I need help since I am new to this whole off the grid/country living way of life (the husband is not however lol!)

Here is the plan:

My husband's brother lives on 30 acres. He has chickens, Guineas or something like that? Lol, horses, a cow, and goats. They grow a huge organic garden every year, and they are over all crunchy. Well, they keep offering us to move in with them, and I am just not comfortable sharing space like that with people I don't know too well (We have always lived far away from family so I don't know how well that would work out long term) So here is the idea we came up with.

We are going to buy a "lofted cabin" which gives us about 580 sq feet of space. It's a cute little thing. The problem? No electric, insulation, plumbing, etc. There are two lofts so great sleeping space for me and the kids. 2 older on one side (they are 4 and 2) and me and the baby on the other side (bay is 7 months) I was also thinking of maybe putting us all on one side and making the other side a toy/play area, but not sure.

My biggest concerns is that since I know NOTHING about living like this and only my husband does, that I wont be able to succeed doing this without him. I would have to find a way to get some electric (for now I'm sure we can use extension cords right?) and I know insulation should be one of the first things to do. I could get a composting toilet, but those are close to $2,000.00 so I wouldn't be able to get that for about 2-3 months from when we plan to move (We plan to do this Aug 1)

Does anyone have any advice about this? I also have no kitchen appliances for this place or any idea what to do in regards for that.

If any of you have any advice or ideas please hit me with them :) I am super stoked and truly feel like I can do this.... just need some guidance in the right direction ;)

AngieB's Avatar AngieB 10:32 AM 07-18-2012
Where is the land you are planning to move to ? I'm asking because what the winters are like would have a lot to do with how I planned things. You'll need a heat source for sure. Have you done much camping ? At first you could almost set it up like a camp site, outdoor kitchen using a camp stove. Will there be a water source? Heat and water are way more important than electric in my opinion. Are your in-laws willing to let you use their clothes washer and maybe even shower until you get one set up at your house? Those are my thought off the top of my head.
lilgreen's Avatar lilgreen 12:40 PM 07-18-2012

We lived in Eastern Africa for a while and this is how everyone lives where we were. You need to get resourcefull with water. Bucket baths were great fun and I came to LOVE them... very relaxing and calming. You use a pitcher of water to pour water over hands to wash with a bowl underneath to catch the water to use for something else. There were no such things as washing machines where we were - everyone washed their clothes by hands, but I strongly recommend using your in-laws' if you can because it takes forever!


Depending on the weather, you will want to live outside as much as possible. Maybe try to construct a shelter of some kind with a table and chairs for eating/crafts, etc. to give you play and eating space away from the sun and rain.


I think that solar panels are unfortunately expensive over here, but they are dirt cheap over there so people use them to charge cell phones and other smaller items. Homes with electricity where we lived are usually solar powered. Look into it, though.


You can buy fans, etc. that use batteries and you can recharge them at the main house. Those flashlights that wind up to turn on are a must! Headlamps, too, will be extremely useful until you get regular lighting... again get rechargeable batteries.


You can get a little habachi bbq, there are ones that use propane which makes them a lot easier and faster. That will be good for cooking when you're starting out.


Hmmm.... this sounds so exciting! I hope it works out for you and that you come to love it! Give it time, though, you need time to find your own strategies and rhythm. 

Imagining's Avatar Imagining 02:20 PM 07-18-2012

Have you heard of the Humanure Handbook?  In lieu of the uber expensive composting toilet, you could one of their composting toilet designs made by loveableloo for ~$200.  It would entail hauling 5 gallon buckets around.  In a couple of weeks we're making one based on the Humanure Handbook design to put in a fabric yurt with no plumbing.  I'm considering the bucket hauling my free workout plan.  Think of that muscle tone, ha!  :)  


I have heard of people using extension cords for power and I imagine this will only be limited by how far you are from the powersource.  We're having the electric company run power up to our fabric yurt but we're not hard-wiring it so will be using extension cords from there.


Good luck!  I'm sure it's daunting but it might well all work out just beautifully, especially if it means having your husband home.

MommaKitten21's Avatar MommaKitten21 08:47 PM 07-18-2012

Ahhh thank you for the great ideas!

I'm a total city girl, so this is completely new to me but I am determined! lol! The land is in Arkansas (Russellville)

We will be moving Aug 1st ish and I will have a couple hundred to use on the home at that time, and I will have about $600 to spend on it on the 15th. I do not have a water source at the moment. That is probably the biggest thing. I just found out today the well on the land isn't deep enough.

The humanure book sounds great! I need to look into that.... and $200 sounds much better than $2,000.00 at the moment for sure! In October, I will have about $2,000.00 to throw into the home, so I know I can get things good to go by then. I am just trying to think if I can make it until then!

The "lofted-cabin" design we are getting is about 12x32 in size (minus the 4 ft porch so technically 28 ft of indoor room) It has two lofts (an 8 ft loft on one side and a 4 ft on the other) So that's going to be sleeping quarters. Any ideas for food storage? The trek into town is about 20 minutes, so I don't feel like driving every day for refridgerated items. Should we just do mostly canned/boxed for the first little while?

I am so sorry if I sound stupid! lol!

AngieB's Avatar AngieB 08:54 PM 07-18-2012
Without a water source you are going to need some large water containers and a way to haul them to the site, plus a reliable place to fill up. You can get a propane refrigerator or live with ice chests. We live without electricity for a year and had a generator that we would turn on in the morning and then again at night for about an hour each to get anything done that needed electricity.
MommaKitten21's Avatar MommaKitten21 08:59 PM 07-18-2012

I just clarified with the husband. The water issue is that we WILL have a water source (We can hook it up to the family's house I guess?) but they are on a water restriction because of the drought, so he suggested we get a water cooler type deal from Wal Mart for the next month or so?

Great idea about the ice chests. Didn't think about coolers!

MommaKitten21's Avatar MommaKitten21 09:00 PM 07-18-2012

We could also catch rain water, but obviously with the lack of rain that cant be the main source at the moment

greenmamato2's Avatar greenmamato2 02:13 PM 07-28-2012

For lighting, try getting some of those solar powered lights for the garden paths - they run about $1.50 - $2 each, and actually give off quite a bit of light.  If you had one to use as a "torch" for each person in the family you'd probably have plenty - just don't forget to put them outside to charge during the daytime hours - it might be good to have extras out charging and just change them out when you remember since they're so inexpensive.

Smithie's Avatar Smithie 07:02 AM 08-15-2012
A big tin tub to bathe the kids will be a lifesaver.

When a household is without refrigeration, I tend to lean more towards avoiding foods that require refrigeration. Twice-weekly shopping and fresh meat for dinner on those days. Canned chicken, tuna and salmon make good casseroles, with a can of condensed soup in place of milk. Lots of veggies, potatoes, and grains as the base of the diet. Apples for snacks. Etc. You don't want to constantly be thinking about the ice in the cooler. It's better to recast your eating habits. Then, we you can afford a little dorm fridge, it will be a total luxury and you won't even think of needing anything bigger.

Google "butter keeper" and rejoice, those things are a miracle of non-refrigeration.
segolilymama's Avatar segolilymama 10:11 AM 08-21-2012

don't feel stupid, MommaKitten! You are on a new adventure, one that our society has surely NOT trained you for!


There are some great suggestions above (solar lights, water cooler, propane appliances, etc). I would also add a camp toilet until you get that issue worked out. If you do want to add a bit more refrigerated items to your initial set-up, you can always go with dry ice which will give you an extra day added to each shopping day of coldness in coolers. You could also see if you could find a small freezer on craigslist or something cheap, and ask the in-laws to plug it in on their property - porch, basement, whatever.


I've spent some time living on a houseboat, which is a similar kind of living situation. Propane is your friend - there are stoves, fridges, water heaters, etc all available that run on propane, and filling the tanks every couple of weeks when you are in town is very simple. Solar is great, but as lilgreen mentioned, the start-up costs can be expensive. If you can get ahold of panels at low cost go for it - there are some companies out there that will do the installation, charge you ONLY for the difference between cost & the grants you can get back from the gov't, and then you sign the gov't grant money back over to the company. Might be worth looking into.


Oh, and a small wood stove for winter heating will keep that place WARM - you will probably even need to crack windows ;)


Good luck!

January---'s Avatar January--- 08:27 PM 02-03-2013

Just checking in to see how things are going for you!

EmsMom's Avatar EmsMom 09:09 AM 02-16-2013

I think that living without electricity might not be such a big deal if you plan it right.  Propane could give you hot water, fuel for heating and even some refrigeration and you can get solar powered lanterns and fans.  I also have one of these solar lightbulbs and it is very reliable


I would also keep battery operated lanterns. 


You could probably just go to town to do laundry once a week, because hand washing is kind of time consuming. 


I wouldn't want to live without running water, personally, but you could buy the 5 gallon jugs of water every week.  The humanure approach seems to work reliably well.  The space in the house is probably fine, but if you can get some insulation, it might help regulate temperature. 


Really give thought to your systems and processes for everyday tasks such as cooking, bathing, night time routines.  For example: set up a kitchen area with some kind of sink even if it empties into a pan underneath.  Put a solar lightbulb over the cooking area and have some easily cleaned counter space.  Food storage could be a HUGE issue because of rodents and insects and (around here anyway, Bears!).  You might want to consider keeping it elsewhere if at all possible.  Make sure all lights are kept in reliable places in case you get home later than usual one night or if you have to get up in the night. 

Tags: Off The Grid , Country Living