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Published on January 9th, 2015 | by Steve Hanley


Yes, You Can Live In A Tiny House With Kids

January 9th, 2015 by  

Originally published on ExpertSure.

imageDo 2 adults and 2 children fit into a 207 square foot Tiny House? Yes, absolutely, say Kim and Ryan Kasl, a Minnesota couple who have two young children, 6-year-old Sully and 4-year-old Story.

You have probably heard of the tiny house movement. Mimi Zeiger in her book Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature describes it this way, “In the wake of the United States’ housing crisis and the overall global recession, the single-family home—once the celebratory site of domestic accomplishment—has become not a symbol of pride and freedom, but a prison of economic uncertainty.” Wow. Those are strong words.

Building a tiny house can help families avoid taking out a mortgage because a it costs much less to build than a conventional house. Going tiny also means that your water, sewage, garbage, and electricity bills are much less. And because a tiny house is, by definition, tiny, you can’t fit much stuff into it. Less stuff to buy means more money in your pocket.

A tiny house is also kind to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that between 2000 and 2050, global energy use will go up 300 percent. This drastic increase in energy and material consumption will put a huge strain on the environment. Going tiny will help reduce that impact. And don’t forget- needing less money to pay bills opens up many opportunities to use your time for enjoyment and recreation. “I love that as Ryan climbs the ladder in his career we are not upgrading our home, cars, and ultimately, our debt,” explained Kim Kasl. “Instead we’re simplifying our lifestyle while upgrading our experiences and adventures. I want the weight of excess responsibilities and bills to be gone so we can be free to do awesome things together as a family.”

Your time becomes opened up for activities that make you happy, regardless of whether they make you money. And beyond giving you more time to spend with friends and family, tiny living often forces you to spend more time outdoors, which is proven to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety- but, can you actually raise kids in a 200-square-foot house?

How do you cultivate personal space? Or have friends over? And as kids grow up, have sleepovers, and hit puberty, is tiny house living even possible? The Kasl say yes, absolutely. They began by taking baby steps. “When we knew for sure that we were going to build a tiny house, everything started gradually,” she explained. “We ‘moved’ downstairs first and brought everything we needed with us. That left the rest to be easily sifted through, boxed up, and shipped out.”

After moving downstairs, the family moved back upstairs and went through the process again. After a couple of moves within their old home, they were able to differentiate between items they actually needed and ones they could do without. If you have something that won’t fit in your tiny house but you don’t want to part with, get creative. Ask friends and family if you can store something at their place. “The one thing we refused to get rid of was our collection of books,” said Kasl. “We just keep a bookshelf at our grandparents’ homes and swap books out for fresh ones when we visit.”

Entertaining family and friends involves designing outdoor spaces to fill the need — decks, patios, a grilling area, even a hot tub can keep you from living like hermits.

But what about the kids? Do they really like the tiny house life? “They love everything that has to do with our new lifestyle. Seriously. No exaggeration at all,” said Kasl. She says her kids don’t even want to go back to their old house. “They want to get back home to the tiny house as quick as they can.” They don’t even mention the toys lost in the transition or the bedrooms that no longer exist. They seem eager to help with chores like cleaning, cooking, and gathering firewood.

Looking down the road to when the children are older, the Kasl already have a plan. “We are looking forward to a big high school project of helping each of the kids build their own tiny houses. [That] will give them an opportunity to gain construction skills, learn how to be self-sufficient, and give them the option of starting a life with mortgage freedom.”

What about “cabin fever” during the long Minnesota winters? “I think anyone who stays inside all winter might go a little crazy, no matter the size of their house. We plan on getting out,” said Kasl. And, when at home, her family has embraced the new list of chores and responsibilities that winter has brought. “It feels like a vacation: peaceful, simple, exciting,” she said. “We love it completely.”

Living With Children in Your Tiny House

image (1)

Source | Images: Yes Magazine, with photos by Kim Kasl.

Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • Mike

    3 bedrooms in such small place? How big are the rooms?

  • Malissa Ann

    I am considering buying a tiny house for our family of three. My biggest worry though is have social services come and say the house is not big enough for the family. Seize the home and take away my baby (I have read this being a possibility on another website). The reason my family is considering a tiny house on wheels is simple. It’s our dream home. My hubby and I always wanted to travel the world and be debt free. This is the best way to do it! I want to home school my little one and let her experience the world and all its beauty. With this freedom I do not want to be “taken out” by the government or have my child taken for being a “bad parent” living in unsuitable conditions. Any words on this? Thanks!

    • Bob_Wallace

      You might go pro-active. Get an appointment with child protection services in your area and discuss this with them.

      Try to get something in writing, which they may not be willing to do. But at least take notes and write up your experience right after the meeting. As much detail – time, names, discussion topics – as you can remember.
      You could even do a follow-up letter to the person with whom you met. Something along the lines of –

      “Thank you for meeting with me and discussing my desire to raise my child in a smaller than typical house.

      The meeting left me with the impression that your agency would have no problem with the size of the house as long as …. If I misunderstood your position please let me know.”

      Attitudes vary widely from person to person within most agencies. Later on you might encounter a hotdog who pushes the limits and gives you trouble. With documentation in hand that person is likely do moderate their response. Or at least their supervisor is likely to moderate it for them.

  • We’ve been considering downsizing for quite some time, but there’s one thing I can’t quite figure out. With so little privacy, and the children so near at hand, is intimacy an issue? Walls and doors are important when it comes to love-making.

  • Scott

    Is it really legal in mn?

  • Vivi

    Of course it’s possible – most people in history have lived with large families in tiny shacks (even nobility often slept with several kids or kids + nurse in a single bed, for warmth) and a large proportion of humanity still do today, in slums around the world.
    But doing this with kids that are getting 21st century, Western cultural indoctrination from their surroundings? Yeah, no. They maybe don’t mind as long as they’re pre-schoolers and have little social contact outside of their family, but wait till they want to bring friends home and get shamed for their living conditions and apparent poverty. Or until they reach puberty and need some basic privacy.
    That is, if social services don’t give you trouble long before that.

    Though I suppose it’s one way to make sure the kids will move out and get their place as soon as they legally can. Because heating several households of singles and couples and lonely pensioners and driving between them all the time for visits is so much more resource effective than planning a house with enough space (or addon capability) for a multi-generational household.

    • Vivi

      I also have the feeling that many immigrant, below-minimum-wage working class people, and single urban mothers who can’t afford a flat on social security and live technically homeless out of their car, and other oppressed minorities having no choice but to live in trailer parks are rolling their eyes so hard at these middle class hipsters right now. It’s only fun if you have the privilege to end the experiment whenever you wish instead of being forced to live like that by abject poverty.

      • TonyJude

        People don’t like mortgages.

        Some people like the freedom of having their backyard be wherever they want it.

        Some people want to stick it to the government in unique ways, like not paying property taxes. (The on-wheels tiny home variety)

        Some people enjoy actually living within their means and not fueling the debt machine.

        How easily you generalize the entire subset of people that would like to do this. How about college age young adults with no need for the space, and no desire to spend a huge portion of their income in rent traps?

        “bring friends home and get shamed for their living conditions and apparent poverty”

        I sure hope you haven’t raised/aren’t planning to raise children if that’s the way your hamster wheel works up there.

  • Samantha Biggers

    Some state laws are very lenient about living arrangements but others are not. Regardless of laws, living small with children can open you up to a lot of scrutiny from those that might be concerned about the quality of how you are raising your child regardless of how happy you all are. My husband and I built a 600 sq ft house and learned a lot about “code”. In our state to be a “house” a domicile has to be 150 sq feet plus a kitchen and bath. I realize that some people get away with living smaller because there are wheels on many of these sorts of houses. In Alaska you can legally live with your children in a car because of old laws that are still on the books. I am not trying to tell people how to live just to check the rules thoroughly for their area so they don’t run into a real hassle. A lot of people just don’t understand living small yet.

  • Bob_Wallace

    The problem for most is where does one find a small house in a decent neighborhood?

    I’ve lived a lot of my life as a single person. I’m very fine with small, I lived for about 3 years in a 100 sq ft cabin (half the time with a girlfriend). One hundred sq ft with an outhouse and outdoor shower stall. It was fine, but there wasn’t room for “hobbies” or anything more than minimal cooking.

    I lived for about five years on a 30′ sailboat. Again, enough room but not enough to do much more than live.

    When I’ve looked for houses to purchase anything under 1,000 sq ft is always in a dodgy neighborhood. Places where you can’t own a nice anything unless you stay home 24/365 to protect it.

    Zoning laws generally don’t one build a small house. Banks are unlikely to provide a mortgage because they are afraid they’ll get stuck with an unsalable property.

    • Jane

      Look for “pocket neighborhoods”. They are built with small houses and often there is a community building for folks to use if they have a big family get together. They started in Washington State with Ross Chapin and have spread all over the US.

  • Joe Kennedy

    It is one thing to inspire, and another thing to put on rose colored glasses. Four people in a place this small is a rare breed. This life choice is not for the vast majority of family’s who want to live in a tiny house, There are a lot of degrees of small in the range most consider a tiny house and to me 4 people translates into more in the 400 to 500 sq. foot range. You still can live as a minimalist and at the same time enjoy the other financial based quality of life points others have posted here,

  • Martin

    Yes it can be done, I have lived in a 200 sq.ft place for a year and a 300 with my girlfriend for a year a well.

    • Joe Kennedy

      I agree it can be done but extreme downsizing is not for most. Imagine if you will adding a 4 year old and a 6 year old to your current 300 sq ft. home. You might say it can be done but I bet most will not agree. and many who try will fail.

  • rockyredneck

    While this is likely not for everyone, anyone can live comfortably in a well planned 800 to 1000 sq.ft. home. 2500 sq. ft of wasted resources is just not necessary.
    One problem is finding a place to build a small house without running afoul of land use by-laws.

  • No way

    There exist people for every crazy little thing… Here is some more inspiration in the same theme:


    • Offgridman

      Your link has absolutely nothing to do with this article or subject.
      It is not in the same ‘theme’, and you have a very sick mind for even suggesting that it does.

      • No way

        Self-torture and masochism comes in many forms.

        • Offgridman

          You are so right, bothering to read your comments and expect any sense from them is my new years resolution to quit inflicting on myself.

  • Michael G

    American houses started getting big after WW-II. They weren’t as tiny as this 200 sf hose before but they weren’t the huge things they are now. If you compare home living space for various countries, the US is a bit of an outlier (along with Australia and Canada).

    The tax laws in the US encourage larger houses and it enforces a savings discpline (paying off your mortgage) most people can’t follow and that is most people’s best “investment”.

    It is a constant theme in all cultures that after a while your possessions possess you. The picture of the life here is very attractive, but few have the courage to live it.

  • Kyle Field

    I wouldnt mind trading in our mortgage and work to live lifestyle for an affordable house that we could pay cash for…and not have to work so hard to pay for.

    • Jenny Sommer

      You don’t have to go to extremes though. Why not a 120m² house..not big for a family but not tiny either. What is stopping you?

      • Kyle Field

        I have truly been thinking about this specific comment since you posted it. I’m going to take a serious look at doing this. We have some areas where property could be purchased nearby…the real hurdle is my wife but I’ll at least commit to giving it a go from my end.
        Let’s hope it goes better than my constant battle to add solar panels to keep our electricity usage net zero consumption…

        • Jenny Sommer

          I am coming from a European perspective. I grew up in a 95m² flat and it never felt too small though I shared a 20m² room with my brother. We now own a 112m² row house (2 floors and a basement, 3rooms and a bath upstairs, bath, living room, kitchen, eating 1st floor) with a small garden in Vienna. We live here with 3 small children.
          It is worth 380k€ and we just didn’t want to commit to more at the time we bought it. It is paid off but we still like it though we could move in a bigger house that belongs to the family but is 40km outside the city (which comes with a lot of other disadvantages like we would have to pay for Kindergarten). Commuting 2h/day is just no good option when I can live 10min from the Subway, still have a garden and a direct 10 min Subway connection to the city center or 20min bike ride to work.

          A lot of people living outside of Vienna built too big because real estate is cheap there. Children move out and they are left with 250m2 they have to heat. Then they start to put in fitness equipment and pool tables or just store junk…I rather go outside (My sailing grounds are 10min away…) or read a book.
          I am 3km away from the Donauinsel…there are not many cities that can provide that quality of living I guess.

          I came to realize that indoor space is my least concern when weighting my options in regard to living quality.
          The only thing I really need is a small garden…before we had kids we used to think it was a nice thing to live in a flat right in the city…good thing we got rid of our flats. Maybe it would be a good idea to buy one for the children when they will go to university…they would be out in some years and we could keep that city flat afterwards 🙂

  • Sugnuf

    Anything is possible if you’re willing to sacrifice quality of life.

    • Offgridman

      The definition of “quality of life” is really a personal decision.
      Some may “sacrifice” as you say by living in a smaller space.
      Others in order to have a large home “sacrifice” by having a thirty year mortgage and committing a majority of their income to paying the maintenance, taxes, and extreme utility bills that come with it.
      To you it is a sacrifice of quality of life to not have excessive space to live in.
      To others it is a sacrifice of quality of life to commit to all of the years of paying for all of that space that they don’t use 90% or more of the time.

  • Fact

    sometimes, I wish we were brave enough to try this. I just can’t see this being successful and avoiding claustrophobia. I’d rather have a small home, and some land to garden in….

    • Offgridman

      You can give this a try to see if it works for you before making the final commitment of purchasing/building your own.
      Lots of suburban area homes have ‘mother-in-law’ suites, apartments, cabanas, etc.
      Finding one of these isn’t usually as simple as going through the normal realtor or rental agencies though. It is more done by word of mouth or checking localized advertising. (bulletin boards, small papers/ad flyers). This refers to conditions here in the US though. Many of these add on residences have been done not so much to accommodate additional family but as ways to provide space during fast population growth and so are not known to the local authorities as part of the common rental stock of the community.
      With the tighter financial conditions of the past decades you can also find opportunities where people are splitting or sharing a larger home.
      Of course following up on these types of smaller living accommodations takes a little more work and sometimes finding people that are compatible for closer quarters living. But this can be the practice needed to see if smaller home living is for you.

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