For a few years now, I’ve followed the tiny house movement and always admired those who took the plunge into living simply, but I never thought I could do it. The Colorado Tiny House Festival, which returns June 22-24 for a second year, allows curious (read: nosy) folks like me to step inside a family’s tiny house and see how they make it work. Ahead of the festival, we sat down with Ally Shea—a mom of twin three-year-old boys, wife, and blogger at Tiny House Twin Travels—to find out how her family made the decision to go tiny. We also got a look inside her 272-square foot tiny house.
The Path to Tiny
Ally and her husband Kevin’s tiny house journey started after moving from Denver to Seattle for Kevin’s job. The Shea’s, who had also been trying to conceive for a few years at that point with no luck, had to quickly sell their home in Lakewood and plunge into the expensive Seattle housing market. Ally explains that even though Kevin was making more than he ever had before, they were still living month-to-month—something that felt like a massive burden to them.
After undergoing fertility treatments, covered by Kevin’s company health insurance, they welcomed their twin boys, Bodhi and River. At that point, Ally realized how little time they spent in the house that they paid so much for every month and was inspired to make the jump into tiny house living. An appearance on HGTV’s Tiny Luxury brought them to their tiny house in just two months, and they set off, making stops in Santa Cruz, Joshua Tree, and Page, Arizona, just to name a few.
When Ally’s dad passed away soon after, their decision to go tiny was cemented.
“My dad passing was a huge moment for me. He was a financial planner who worked his whole life saving for retirement, and then he died at 65 and didn’t get to enjoy (retirement) with his wife. I get it, some people are saving to live to 100, but you have to enjoy life today,” says Ally.
Right for Right Now
Many parents would scoff at the idea of going tiny, and Ally doesn’t blame them. She knows their family is going to grow out of their tiny house eventually. Their plan is to stay until the twins are at least seven or eight years old, putting money into savings along the way so they don’t fall into home debt again.
“After that, we can either buy a house with cash and fix it up, or buy land and build something from scratch,” she says.
On the Challenges of Living in a Tiny House:
Tiny Living Toilet “The toilet is our biggest challenge. We have a composting toilet, and most of the composting toilets you see are dug super deep into the ground, so all you do is put some straw in there every couple months and it’s good to go. With ours, the front area is for number 1 and the back area is for number 2, so you have to do a little dance so you don’t mix them, which creates a smell.”
Lessons Learned the Hard Way “I’ve also taken over the propane since the time I was in the shower with shampoo in my hair and only one leg shaved, and we ran out of propane, making the water icy cold.”
Cabin Fever “When it rains, we have to find an indoor play space or get (the kids) geared up and head outside, because you can’t hang out in the tiny house all day.”
Alone Time “Finding time alone can be challenging, but since we chase nice weather, I can always have Kevin take over and sit outside or go for a walk. But it’s definitely not like a regular house, so you have to really like each other,” laughs Ally.
The positives of Tiny Living:
Togetherness “I like being close to my boys and knowing what they’re into all day.”
Cost & Resource Savings “We pay around $40 every two-ish months to fill up our propane tank, and we probably spend $10 on electric every month. We’ve just naturally started using less water living this way.”
Easy Clean-up “It’s such a weight lifted to not have to come home and clean on Sundays, it takes me 20 minutes to clean this place, mopping included!”