5 Tiny House Design Tips (That You Can Use No Matter Where You Live)

This is a guest post from Mariah Coz from COMET Camper.

I’m Mariah Coz, and I live in a 100 square foot vintage trailer that I renovated and re-designed. I teach the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course, which is now open for enrollment for the session about to begin on October 5th. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned from my experience designing and living in such small spaces!

Whether you live in 10 sq. ft. or 1500 sq. ft., I think it’s a great idea to incorporate “tiny” design features to create more room and less clutter in your space.

My tiny home on wheels, the COMET camper, has some pretty nifty features you might never notice if I didn’t point them out! Everyone who visits my tiny home is surprised at how much function I have in such a small area. I want to show you how I do that.

Today I have 5 tiny house design tips that you can implement no matter where you live!

COMET Camper - Worm Compost

 

1. Create a vermi-compost or “Worm-bin” system under a bench for indoor, odorless composting!

Most people living in tiny homes don’t “own” the land they live and park on, and so are limited in their composting options. And if you live in the city or in an urban area, you might not have your own yard to create a big, open compost pile. But that’s what worms are for! In the COMET, I have a vermiculture (composting with worms) set-up underneath the front dinette bench near the door. The worms are red wigglers (I got mine on Amazon) and they are tiny BEASTS let me tell you. They eat ALL of my food scraps, including eggs shells and coffee grounds. The worms live in a “rubbermaid” type bin, you just throw your green and brown scraps in, and they make short work of it. This system is tiny and odorless, perfect for apartments and tiny houses or mobile campers and RVs.

COMET Camper - Deskturniture

2. Fold-Down desks save on space

I love my little fold-down desk. I made it out of an old hunk of plywood and some vintage Formica tabletop that I salvaged from a table that was mostly damaged but had this one good piece that was stuff re-usable. The fold down desk was really simple to make, just a few hinges and a slide lock to hold it up and out of the way. It’s nice to have the space in the back of the trailer so convertible – it’s a couch/relaxing area, a work area during the day, and when I fold the desk up it becomes my bed area at night. It’s only big enough to fit my laptop, but that’s all I need in a desk at the moment!

COMET Camper - Kitchen

3. Use the vertical wall space

My kitchen counter is about 2 sq. ft. total, when you take out the space for the sink and cooktop (that’s why I added a fold-up counter extension for when I need it!). In order to keep the counter clear, I use all of the vertical space around the kitchen area for storing kitchen items such as spatulas, soap, sponges, and more. I got a few small things from ikea that help me keep everything organized in the tiny kitchen. I recommend getting lots of hooks and small shelves, and getting as much stuff OFF of horizontal spaces as possible. It makes the whole place feel much bigger, and there’s no clutter on the tables, counters, etc.

COMET Camper - Transforming Beds

4. Your spaces should serve multiple purposes.

“Multi-function” or “stacking functions” is a term I use a lot in reference to permaculture, but it applies so perfectly to small space design. I have a few examples of this in action in the COMET camper. The back area, which is my couch and convertible workspace/desk area during the day, is also my bed at night when it folds down. That same area of maybe 15 sq. ft. total is my living room, home office, and bedroom. And in the front of the camper, the dinette (kitchen table) doubles as a “guest” bed when folded down. Technically my camper could sleep 6 people, but we’ve never tried that!

Tiny Transition E-Course 800 Button

5. The less crap you have, the easier it is to design your space.

This is where the downsizing comes in. The honest truth is that it’s much easier to design your living space when you have less crap, and hold onto  just a few things that you totally love. Giving your beloved items the space they need to shine is what this whole tiny house thing is all about! You don’t need to be a complete minimalist either, I’m certainly not. I love tchotchke’s and weird knick knacks, so I have a small shelf devoted to those things. Once you downsize your stuff, you’ll see how everything falls into place around it in your tiny house.

If you need help, support, and the motivation to start downsizing in preparation for a smaller life, the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course can kick-start you into gear. When you join the class, you get 8 weeks of downsizing bootcamp (lessons, tasks, challenges, reading and writing prompts) and lifetime access to the private class-only forum, so you can meet and connect with others on the same journey as you.

The class will not only get your house, mind, and life decluttered and cleared out, but it will help you change your relationship with stuff. If you feel like your stuff owns you instead of the other way around, I hope you’ll join us in the next session of Tiny Transition + Downsizing, which begins on October 5th 2014. You can find out more and register here.

Extreme Downsizing: Four months, Two people, and 35 square feet

The following is a guest post by Mariah Coz of www.cometcamper.com.

As we get ready for the next session of the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course, which begins on August 10th, I thought I’d talk a little bit about my own recent re-simplification and downsizing efforts (let’s call it Round 2). It is by no means the right thing for everyone to live in a super tiny space, and I don’t see myself living so ridiculously tiny forever, but I wanted to share my experience preparing to live in 35 square feet, with another person!

Most people would think that 100 square feet of living space would be tiny enough. But after a year of living in the COMET camper, my tiny mobile home on wheels, my partner and I decided that the camper just wasn’t mobile enough, and had more space than we needed. Sure, it’s a fantastic home-base. It’s always there when we need it. But truth be told, it’s an expensive pain in the ass to tow, and I want to ROAM. I thought trailers were the height of mobility and flexibility when I decided to renovate my COMET camper. I love my little vintage home on wheels, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the right nomadic space to take me across the country for a number of months.

So after spending a few years downsizing all of my stuff to be able to fit into the COMET, I downsized again into my custom-converted Honda Element-turned-micro camper. It took a lot of planning and a lot of weeding through stuff. I had to really assess what I needed vs. what I wanted. I had to learn what items and things increased my comfort exponentially and which ones didn’t. I practiced living out of a backpack and cooking with just one bowl, a water bottle, and a camp stove for a month before we left for California in our tiniest home on wheels.

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It was definitely a challenge. Even for someone like me, the transition from 100 sq. ft. to 35 sq. ft. (where I could really only have one single bag, since most of the car’s storage was occupied by our camera equipment and camping gear), was really tough. I had to slowly whittle down my bag a little bit every day before our take-off until I felt like I could be comfortable with so few things. My partner Matt helped me too, which led to a few fights but was ultimately really helpful.

One of the things I thought about the most was what types of clothes would be best to live in. I could only bring a few outfits, and considering I run a vintage clothing store for a living that is a tall order for a girl like me! I ended up bringing mostly wool items (merino tank tops, wool sweaters, and wool tights) because the material is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-odor, and self-cleaning. Perfect for living out of a car with limited access to laundry! In the end, I STILL brought too many clothing items and realized I could have lived without a lot more.

And that has been my experience with everything related to living in a tiny car – you realize how little you really need. We ended up using far less cooking stuff, camping stuff, and “worst case scenario” type stuff than we anticipated. Next time we live in our car for 6 months, we’ll probably only take 50% of the stuff we took last time. You just realize how much easier and simpler life is with less stuff. Having more crap to keep track of and organize in such a tiny space just makes your life more stressful.

Having experienced traveling both in the COMET Camper trailer and the Honda Element, I can definitely say I prefer the ease of waking up, pushing the bed back, and just GOING when we live in the Honda Element. The trailer requires about an hour of set up and break down whenever you stop at a new place, and that can get old.

You are probably wondering how two people in a relationship got along living in 35 sq. ft. for 4 months. In our experience, it wasn’t that we ever wanted time away from each other, but that we desperately wanted time for the two of us to just be alone, without constantly being around other people. The thing about living in your car or van is that privacy is a joke. You have virtually none, unless you are in the woods. That was my only complaint – not that we needed more space or that I wish I had more stuff, but that I wished we’d had more time to ourselves without the worry of someone knocking on the windows of our teeny tiny mobile abode.

Having downsized twice in such an extreme way, I learned a lot about why people think they need to hold onto things, how to really let go of those things you don’t love or need, and how to be happy both mentally and physically in a smaller space. In the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course, you’ll learn about the psychology of stuff, how to de-clutter both your mental and physical space, and new techniques for keeping crap out of your life for good. The best part though, according to past members, is the private class forum. You’ll have access to everyone in the course so that you can connect with like-minded people, make new friends, share your successes, and get support and motivation throughout the entire process.

Some people take the Tiny Transition E-Course in order to prep for tiny house living, while others end up transitioning into the full-time RV or travel trailer lifestyle. Others just want to regain some sanity in their lives and less clutter and crap in their homes. Whatever simple life you’re looking for, I hope you’ll come and join me and the other classmates in the course. I look forward to supporting you in your journey, talking tiny in the group, and helping you create a simpler, happier life!

If you’re wondering what others have gotten out of taking the class, I’ll let them explain:

“This class has single-handedly changed my thinking and life. The email course is rocking my world with the “how” to do this, the access to the associated Google group is invaluable. You could lurk and never post with this group and it’ll change your thinking and life. Even if you just want to tread more softly on this beautiful jewel of a planet we live on, you will benefit from this course. I’ve found my true fun self since I’ve been taking this course. My stuff was burying my life, and I had no idea that I’d done that to myself. The e-course, the readings, and the Google Group together make for a powerful inspiration to keep going. The class is already paid for itself in less stress, less stuff, and heck, I’ve even lost weight! All because I’m realizing that I just don’t NEED a lot of things. While we may or may not move into an actual Tiny House, our house of 1,100 square feet is starting to look huge. We have SO MUCH SPACE NOW! I’m looking forward to a smaller house (and a smaller or NONEXISTENT mortgage soon). ” – Andrea

“This class is changing my entire life. For the good, too. So glad I made the decision to spend the money to take this course!” — Becky R.

“I am so glad I ran across the Tiny Transition e-course. I have made such progress, and peace has come into my life that wasn’t there this time last year, I am very grateful.” — Troy

“Thank you, Mariah, for one of the best experiences of a lifetime!” — L.

The next session of Tiny Transition begins on August 10th, so sign up now to save your spot. I hope to see you there!

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La Chanchita – Off-Grid Adventure Bus

The following is a guest post from Manu at La Chanchita.

La Chanchita is a 1966, 911 Mercedes-Benz bus.  It used to be a city bus in Buenos Aires in the sixty’s before they converted it into a truck. We bought it last year to give her a third life as a motorhome!

It took us 9 months to do the conversion. We had the chance to use a carpinter shop at home so we could build it in wood the way we wanted.

The plan is to use the bus to bring people, mainly adventurers and extreme sports lovers, to discover South America. We wanted it to be totally autonomous, with a good insulation.

We are Freeskiers and travel a lot during the winter, that’s why we decided to install a wood stove which guarantees a warm and dry interior with a lower cost and definitly more comfort than any other heating system.

We decided to put 12v LEDs for illumination so we have very low consumption and don’t need to be plugged in on 220v. We also have a 12v to 220v converter in case we need to plug in phones or computers.

We also installed 2 water tanks. A 350L tank outside under the bus and a 150L inside. So we can switch from the outside tank to the inside tank when temperatures go down to be sure the water will never get frozen.

All the mechanics have been changed for a 1114 Mercedes-Benz engine with a truck differential with high and low gear so we can climb up in the Cordillera de los Andes easily.

About the Project

South America offers endless possibilities for extreme sports, travelling, photography and filming lovers. But most of the spots and ski resorts in the Andes are not always easy to access. As opposed to Europe or North America, transportation is not always well organized and some stations offer no tourist accommodation or transport service. That is why we decided to convert a bus into a comfortable motorhome.

With all services on board (Sleep 6, water, electricity, shower, toilet , wood stove) the Chanchita bus is completely autonomous and gives you the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. It gives you the chance to always have first tracks!

Learn more about La Chanchita on Facebook and on their website.