For many, living tiny sounds like a dream—the minimalism, low cost of living and sense of freedom are all appealing. But it’s not for everyone. People leave the tiny house movement for almost as many reasons as they entered it. Here are six reasons former tiny-home owners quit living tiny.
1. Adding a new member to the family
In 2017, when Marek and Kothney-Issa Bush moved into their 200-square-foot tiny house, they were looking for three things: geographic flexibility, ownership and property with future rental or resale value. Around the same time, the young couple also committed to paying off their $125,000 debt, which made the low-cost lifestyle of tiny living even more appealing.
In two years, they paid off their whopping debt, including the house, and continued living tiny until 2021 when they welcomed a new member to the family—their daughter Zalayah Bush.
They’d talked about quitting tiny-house living before their daughter arrived, but now they were sure it was time to move. “Even with the changes we made in the home, we still kept running into a problem with going up a ladder to a sleeping loft with a baby,” Marek said. “Also, not having a separate room to put our daughter down for naps was a problem for us.”
To solve that problem, they sold their tiny house and moved into a traditional-sized home in Kansas City, MO with enough space for their growing family.
“Ultimately, we are happy with our decision,” he said. “We achieved the goals we set out to accomplish, and faster than we expected, too! The tiny house was a big part of that.”
2. Lack of privacy and not feeling safe
The freedom and flexibility of van life are major attractions to nature-lovers and creatives, like Freya Haley of New South Wales, Australia. “I chose to try out van life as I really wanted to feel like I was in nature everyday,” she said.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. Haley spent many nights sleeping in her converted 1993 Toyota Hiace LWB on suburban and city streets. She tried to spend as much time outdoors as she could, but the lack of privacy from showering in public bathrooms, and the fear of having knocks on her door late at night took its toll on her mental health.
Eventually, she moved out of her van and into a four-wheel-drive vehicle with her partner for another month, and eventually she rented a space in the Northern Rivers.
“I realized I much preferred doing the tiny lifestyle with a partner and with a set up that was much more reliable than my old van,” she said.
3. Unhappy with the build
Haley bought her van somewhat on impulse, she said. There was fire on her property as her lease was ending, so she jumped at the chance to purchase her vehicle and live out her van-life dream. Unfortunately, the vehicle had some major problems, like mechanical issues and even fleas. She eventually fixed those problems, but wasn’t happy with some parts of her build, like her custom-made couch bed.
“I don’t think I got a good night sleep in this van, ever,” she said.
Along with a broken refrigerator and an unreliable electrical system, she began to rethink her decision. “If I had my time again, I would really make sure to have a reliable tiny set up,” Haley said. “I would ensure the vehicle was mechanically sound and that the electrical system was working effectively before diving into the deep end.”
4. Lack of defined spaces
Haley’s creativity also suffered without having a dedicated creative work space. Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste can relate.
She moved into her 325-square-foot tiny house with her partner and their dog with the hopes of loving the lifestyle. The house was built in the 1930s and only had a few small windows. This made taking photos for her blog difficult.
“The tiny home definitely forced me to be creative, like having to take photos in the bathroom at 4 PM with a piece of cardstock on top of the commode because it was the only well lit area in the house,” she wrote on her blog. “While that worked sometimes, other times it just didn’t and I think my blog suffered because of it.”
5. Too small for two
While Kellogg was drawn to the simplicity of living in a small space with her husband, the combination of its small size and poor layout made living there a challenge.
“When you walk into the tiny home you walk straight into the bedroom/living room, so he’d come home when I was trying to sleep,” she wrote. “It would wake up the dog and get her all excited...Then I would wake him up when I tried to make breakfast and get work done in the morning. It was just a mess.”
6. Negatively impacted mental health
For Haley and Kellog, the mounting number of frustrations with tiny-house living began to take its toll on their mental health.
“I realised going back home, how much I was struggling with living on the road alone,” Haley said. “I was struggling a bit with my mental health and not having some of those creature comforts, like a safe space to sleep every night, left me feeling a bit jarred.”
“Everyday I woke up feeling kind of depressed, and I know my husband woke up feeling depressed...and it wasn’t very healthy for our relationship,” Kellogg said. After a year, she pulled the plug on tiny-house living and moved out with her husband and her dog.
Kellogg, Haley, and the Bushes all acknowledge that while their tiny journey might be over, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a good fit for others. Still, they’re happy with their decision to leave it behind.
“I don’t regret making the choice to give tiny-home living a try,” Kellogg said. “But it’s definitely something I’m glad to be leaving behind.”