At ATWS we’re interested in challenging the norm of debt and spending. That’s why once a month we feature people who have gone to (what some would say) extreme means with their living situations to get out of debt, save money and live a simpler life. Today we have a tour with Micah, Jana and little Silas. They’re a young family who have been living in their tiny home in the city by the bay for the past six months. Take it away, y’all!
Hi there! We’re Micah, Jana and Silas, a growing family of three living in a tiny house in San Francisco, CA. Last March, we made a giant move across the country from Birmingham, Alabama, following a career move to the West Coast. Micah’s position at the fast-growing tech company, Shipt, a company that’s transforming the grocery shopping experience, afforded us the opportunity to plant an office in San Francisco with a one year commitment. With one-year-old toddler, Silas, we needed the stability of a home that also suited to our nomadic, evolving lifestyle. With more financial freedom and flexibility, Jana is able to focus on raising Silas and work with children at the church where we park!
Why did you decide to move into a tiny house?
We’re chasers. Adventures. Some might say restless. Jana has moved a grand total of 51 times in her life, and together we average one and a half years between moves during our seven-year relationship.
Some of the motion and flux is a by-product of two millennials trying to find their place. But I think it’s part of our nature. There is something about the freedom that we’re drawn to. Either way, tiny living suites our family. Neither of us grew up conventionally, and we tend to think about things in a different way than most. Despite doubts from family and friends, we see tiny living as a healthy lifestyle that allowed for financial independence, freedom, and adventure during the prime years of our life. Rather than wait for late retirement, we are free to live now as we choose, while still figuring stuff out without much pressure. Our son will have incredible experiences throughout his childhood, and we get to make memories with him. The whole world is our backyard!
Did you build or buy your tiny house?
Build vs. buy was a tough decision. Given more time, we would have built the house ourselves. It’s more budget-friendly and there’s something magical about getting your hands on the build process. However, the window of opportunity was short, and decisions had to be made in a matter of a few months. So in January of 2016, we made a decision to contract the building of our tiny home for occupation in late March. We’re so grateful to our builder, Andrew, from American Tiny House! They were able to bring our dreams and designs to life in short order. We couldn’t be happier with that decision.
Please describe your home.
Our tiny house is 28 ft. long and 8.5 ft. wide. Including the 2 ft. cantilever off the second loft that extends the length over the hitch, our tiny house is the maximum size allowed without a special pull permit.
After polling our Instagram audience, we decided to take a risk with a dark ebony stain on the exterior siding. As it turns out, the look is wildly unique and really pops in the sunlight. It’s faded some in the sun, but, being almost black, it attracts more heat than we expected. However, the spray-foam insulation and quality of the build makes that a non-issue.
The interior is shocking the opposite. After entering through our double french doors, you see white painted shiplap everywhere. The inside feels bright, airy and full of natural light from 14 windows. Believe it or not, Jana wanted more windows. We settled on 14 to stay on budget, but plenty of natural light is essential to a small space.
We have two lofts. Our master loft is a cozy dream with storage steps to make ascension with a toddler possible. The second is our “lounge loft” featuring a TV, some toys, and a ridiculous amount of pillows, but it’s accessed by ladder. Silas could climb it at 14 months. One day that will be Silas’ space when we’re more confident in his ability to manage the rails that guard each end. For now, it serves as a cozy nook and sleeping space for guests.
The hardwood floors, fold-out kitchen table, and butcher block counter tops are dark stained wood to accent the white shiplap.
High chairs take up a lot of space. We had an extension from our counter tops built for a small mountable high chair. Kitchen stools from Target are stacked and stored underneath for space efficiency. Everything packs away when not in use!
One thing we missed during the build process was baby-proofing the stairs. With high ceilings, the fall would be treacherous for our little guy. With no opposing wall or banister, we had to get creative. Micah built a baby gate with locking hooks to fasten it around the bottom three stairs. We painted it white, and it works well.
Our kitchen is full and capable of normal family use. It features a glorious double sink at a special request from Jana. With no dishwasher, it’s been a lifesaver.
Our bathroom is just the right size. It features a stand up shower (no tub), a vanity cabinet with mirror, a washer/dryer combo unit with storage above and a Separett composting toilet. Composting isn’t the best, but it’s certainly doable as long as Micah empties the bag.
If you feel comfortable, we’d love to hear about the financial part of buying or building your home? What was your budget?
This was the most challenging part of the process for us. Being a young family, we didn’t have anything set aside, and the financing situation can be challenging for tiny homes. While we’ve been “planning” to go tiny for years, it’s always been a distant dream. Banks are not setup to work with tiny home loans yet . As such, a tiny house isn’t easy to obtain unless you have the cash or family and friends who can help with we had neither.
We were able to get financing through a series of personal loans from newer options like Lending Club, Prosper, and SoFi. Interest rates are substantially higher with personal loans as opposed to a mortgage. The work relocation provided an opportunity for additional income, which we were able to allocate directly to paying back loans quickly. We’ve been able to double down on our already short-term loans, and we’re on track to have all loans paid off in just two years, allowing financial freedom before we turn 30.
Did it cost more than you anticipated to buy your home?
No! All in, we paid around $60k including delivery and a solar package.
What has been the most surprising cost of living in a tiny house?
Honestly, we were most surprised by the cost of living in San Francisco. We’ve had to be a little more conservative with our payment schedule than initially planned.
Have you saved money since living in the tiny house?
While we are intentional about saving some, most of our extra income will go directly to tiny house loans for the first two years with intent to radically save after we reach financial freedom.
How do your costs compare to your life before the tiny house?
With solar, utilities are practically non-existent. Our monthly payments rival our previous rent payment in the city, but will decrease over the next two years until we totally pay back our tiny home loans. Then our monthly costs will be negligible.
Please describe your daily life.
We miraculously found a parking spot in East Bay. So, even on a motorcycle, Micah’s commute into San Francisco is around 45 minutes one way. Working at a startup, his days are often long, and he often returns home around 7 or 8pm. We like to spend evenings at the park with Silas or go on a short walk before dinner. Jana co-sleeps, so most of her sleep comes in the morning. She and Silas play in the loft before she has to carry him like a sack of potatoes down the stairs to ensure he doesn’t fall. Managing laundry in a tiny house is no joke. Honestly, it’s a constant struggle. With having a very active little guy it’s hard for Jana to keep up at times. Laundry really has to be a daily routine. Silas eats breakfast in his little mounted highchair. While he’s confined, Jana will get ready before they tackle the day’s adventures. If he is being extra well-behaved, Jana even gets to brush her hair. House chores are quick, and Silas pulls Jana outside for some sort of daily adventure. He loves the outdoors and needs constant stimulation.
What is your favorite part of your home?
Our bedroom! It’s super cozy, cute and peaceful. Being eye-level with the trees is just wonderful.
What is the best part about living in a tiny house? The worst part?
There are many good parts, but one of the best is how fast you can clean up! It takes just minutes to recover from a toddler-wrecked tiny house. A deep clean takes just 30 minutes.
The worst part is the instability. Tiny houses aren’t exactly kosher in most places. We haven’t been forced to move yet. Knock on wood. You never know when someone will make a fuss and we’ll have to find a new spot. We know other tiny housers who have had trouble. Houses on wheels attract eyes, and the uncertainty can be trying.
What advice do you have for other people who want to live a similar lifestyle?
Do it. Be brave. Take a risk and forget what people say. You are literally one decision away, and you will not regret it.
What an inspiring little family! To follow more of Micah, Jana and Silas’ adventures, follow them on Instagram.
Do you live in a tiny house, RV or a small unconventional home? Reach out to me for a feature.
P.S. Looking to declutter and minimize? CLICK HERE to learn about the Fearless Minimalist Guide