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posted: 9/3/2015 5:45 AM

7 big lessons from tiny homes

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  • Aim high: Vertical storage maximizes the space in any size room.

    Aim high: Vertical storage maximizes the space in any size room.

  • Double duty: Skinny desks and wall shelves that replace side tables allow for a functional,stylish office space to be added to a bedroom

    Double duty: Skinny desks and wall shelves that replace side tables allow for a functional,stylish office space to be added to a bedroom

  • Tiny houses are hugely popular. Here's how to incorporate the space-saving design tips into yournormal-sized house.

    Tiny houses are hugely popular. Here's how to incorporate the space-saving design tips into yournormal-sized house.
    photos courtesy Content That Works

 
By Carley Lintz
CTW Features

We all could do to live with a little less in our homes: a little less clutter, a little less waste and a little less inefficiency. Tiny home dwellers, however, take "less is more" to the extreme, managing to eat, sleep and work in houses more suitable for a hobbit than a full-sized human.

Haven't heard of tiny homes? You might be the only one. These itty-bitty abodes are everywhere from books ("The Small House Book") to movies ("Small is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary) to TV ("Tiny House Nation"). They're both undeniably adorable and the embodiment of living simply and smart. They also fly in the face of the supersized mindset of many Americans.

The average size of single-family homes built in the U.S. in 2013 was 2,600 square feet, according to the Census Bureau. That's even bigger than during the housing crisis years. Averaging between 100 and 400 square feet, tiny homes stand in stark contrast to the (literal) growing housing trend.

Tiny house owners choose the mini lifestyle for a multitude of reasons including freedom from debt, the ability to travel or environmental consciousness. But for a majority of us, living in such tight quarters just isn't practical.

Nonetheless, there's a lot to learn from these immaculate, clever designs. Here are seven tips for living the tiny house life without taking a shrink ray to your home:

1. Rethink downsizing

The greatest lesson from the tiny house lifestyle: downsizing. But before you start chucking your belongings into a donation bin, take the time to truly evaluate your family's needs.

"Tiny house living is all about efficiency without losing style. It's taking a real, honest assessment of 'What do I need?' and, when you go to the next level, 'What do I want in my life?' " says Ross Beck, operations manager for Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., Sonoma, California. "It is really more about what your mindset is than 'I've got to get rid of half of my possessions.' "

So ask yourself "Do I want a dinner set for 14 when I haven't ever invited 14 people for dinner?" and make downsizing decisions based on what works for you.

2. Rent, borrow & share

Got a grill that only sees action once a year? What about that bike you bought to take up cycling that is now collecting dust? Or a hedge trimmer that's never seen a hedge in its life? Live according to the tiny house philosophy: If you're not using it regularly, you don't need it cluttering up your home. Instead, rent, borrow and share neighbors' and friends' devices when you need them.

3. Get clever with space

In tiny homes, every little bit of space is precious so homeowners have to get creative to use each nook and cranny to its full potential. For example, floating shelves on your wall are a great -- and inexpensive -- alternative to nightstands, and they help to free up floor space. Built-in features like bookcases make any room more interesting while also saving space.

4. Make it multipurpose

Like a busy parent, furniture in a tiny house needs to be great at multi-tasking. Choose pieces for your home that pull double-duty, like an ottoman that serves as extra seating as well as storage, or staircases with hidden storage units in each step.

5. Taller is better

One of the most underutilized spaces in any room of your home is likely above your head. Lofted beds are popular features in tiny homes, so take note and think tall when choosing your décor. Cabinets and curtains that reach the ceiling will make any room seem bigger while floor-to-ceiling shelving units won't leave any space unused.

6. Go custom

Can't find the perfect piece for your home design needs? Take note of the tiny home playbook and get it custom made, or even do it yourself. A majority of tiny homes are either custom made by companies like Tumbleweed Tiny Home Company or built DIY-style by the owners. It's the perfect way to make sure you have exactly what you need for your family's lifestyle.

7. Be energy efficient

Living efficiently doesn't just apply to making the most of a small space for tiny house dwellers. For many owners it's also about their effect on the environment. Invest in energy efficient technologies like smart thermostats, or you can make simple lifestyle changes to live more efficiently.

"If I'm paying a lot of overhead for heating and cooling, maybe I can, as past generations have done, close off a room," suggests Andrew Odom, author of Tiny r (E) volution blog. "Or I'll turn the thermostat down at night and use a quilt, or wear less clothes and drink more water. You don't have to have a small space to live more efficiently."

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