Dweller Interview- Stolls

Wind River Dweller Interview – Living Tiny with a Family of Five

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live as a family with small children in a tiny home? We recently did an interview with Wind River tiny home owners Cassidy and Dawson that sheds light on living with not one, but three small children inside a 24’ tiny home. They also talk about their experience buying a tiny home second-hand, and what it’s like working from home. Most importantly, they talk about the ups and downs of living tiny, and what they’ve learned from their tiny home journey. “Living tiny has shown us what we value most,” Cassidy says, “especially that we value family. We value people. We value our children.”

“…everything we have we really love.”

 

Q:

Usually we’re doing these Dweller Interviews with our previous clients that we’ve worked with throughout a build, but you bought your Wind River tiny home second-hand, so this is a bit different. We’re excited to hear about your backstory and what led you to going tiny.

A:

It started when we felt like God called us to move to Tennessee. We were living in Pennsylvania and didn’t know what our next step was, so we started thinking and feeling things out. “What about an RV? What about a tiny house? What about a situation like this or that?” We were leaning toward a tiny house because the lifestyle really interested us, so we just started looking on Facebook Marketplace. One day, we found a tiny house located in Maine, 18 hours away. It was kind of our dream—all of the detailing, all of the wood. It was just exactly our style. It had never been lived in. It was won in a prize drawing apparently, and it was a good steal, so we went for it.

Q:

So was that the first tiny home you found? Did you look at any others?

A:

No. Once we saw it, we couldn’t stop thinking about it. After looking through the pictures, we were just in love and the layout and quality were just so much nicer than any of the others we had seen. So we contacted the owner and told her we were really interested in it—even though it felt so ridiculous to drive that far to get it. We decided to go look at it and if we liked it, we’d take it home that day so we wouldn’t have to make the drive back and forth multiple times.

The trip was a bit crazy, actually, because we got halfway to Maine and realized we forgot the money! There were no banks we could use, so we had to turn around and drive several hours back. By the time we got to Maine it was 8:00pm and it was getting dark. But we looked at the tiny home and were so in love. We knew this was our tiny house!

But then we had an issue with our truck being too small to tow the tiny house. We decided to rent a Uhaul, but it was too late and they were closed, so that night we slept in a WalMart parking lot in our truck with our one-year-old daughter.

The next day we got to Uhaul, purchased a ball hitch, and finally hooked up to the tiny home. We drove separately all the way home, which took longer because we had to go super slow. It probably took about double the time on the return trip.

The whole experience was a wild ride, but it helped that we were able to speak with you all at Wind River and work out the issue with the title. You guys were amazing, which made us feel like, yes, this is the right thing for us.

Q:

That’s great! So how is the house working out for you?

A:

Once we got it, we put in a lot of specific things that we wanted. We built a wall for the loft, because we have children. Dawson put in a lot of furniture. Recently we added a hammock.

There are some pros and cons to tiny living, and having a lot of children is an additional challenge. I’ll start with the pros. It gets us outside so often. I feel like I spend a majority of my time outside with my children. Dawson works outside in our front yard so we’re just literally always outside. It really puts value on everything that we own because we can’t own as much as most people. Before we moved in, we literally sold everything. We had a full house of furniture, all of our wedding gifts. We sold everything. What’s the use of putting all this stuff that we really don’t need anyway into storage? All that we have is inside of our house and the few bins of things that we can’t fit are at Dawson’s parents’ house. It’s shown us what we value most—especially that we value family. We value people. We value our children. We don’t have to keep cleaning all day long because we don’t have a huge house to clean. So that’s the biggest pro—finding what’s most valuable to us and the fact that we’re outside a lot, out in nature. It really brings us together and helps us enjoy the simple things in life.

The biggest challenge for us is having children in a tiny house. I could live in a tiny house all the time, but children come with a lot of stuff. There are certain things that you just can’t expand in a tiny house. For example, I’ve been really wanting to start teaching the kids ABCs. And you don’t need all the fluff, but you do need some supplies and there’s just not a lot of space. You can only do so much. We also haven’t been able to expand as much as we would want into certain hobbies. I’m into crafts, but that’s what’s in the bins at his parents’ house. I don’t have space for that stuff.

But our hearts have always leaned toward a minimalist way of living and regardless of where we move next, though it may not be a tiny house, it’s still going to be very small. We feel like a lot of people just have so much stuff that they don’t know what to do with. Minimalism for us is about our relationship with things. It’s not about only having a spork and a plate. Are we using the things that we have? Do we actually love what we have? Our closet space is tiny, and we have five people’s clothes in there. All the children have a bin that’s 12” x 6” and then we have a shelf each. We need to love the clothes we have because we don’t have space for anything else. So it’s good in that way—but there’s also not a lot of space for things like winter coats and winter boots.

Q:

That kind of speaks to one of the questions we had about storage because storage is always a premium in tiny homes. Even for single or double dwellers, but for a family of 5, we can imagine how difficult that might be. Are there any tricks or habits, or even constraints you have for storage?

A:

Like we said, everything we have we really love. When it comes to clothes and shoes and coats, we often buy the best quality because when you buy cheap, you have a tendency to keep buying so you end up with like 5 coats. And when you buy quality, you don’t have to keep buying because it lasts longer. Whatever we put into our closet, we make sure it’s quality. And outside we have a little shed where we keep the stroller and a few things.

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Q:

For people who are thinking of how they would set up their tiny home, they should also think about what other storage or exterior storage they may need.

A:

Something we would definitely do if we decided to stay in this situation long-term is to build a covered porch on the front of our tiny home. Then you can keep more things out there, like your shoes and stuff, and it feels a little cleaner. What happens with tiny houses, especially with children, is that the tiny house becomes your mudroom. Having a porch would really help a lot.

Q:

So you feel like living in your tiny home has helped you on your journey of trying to live more minimally? Even if you upsize from here in the future?

A:

Oh my goodness, yes! We strongly believe in not relying on having lots of stuff in a huge house. And we would definitely recommend tiny living for anyone, even with children. You can put half the money into it and have a beautiful place to live. Even though it’s not huge, it’s beautiful. You end up enjoying what you have more. And financially, if you can stay free and clear of debt, or have just a small mortgage, why would you put so much money into a big house that you end up not even using?

Q:

How old are your kids? And what do they think of living tiny—or are they really aware of it?

A:

They are 3, 1, and a baby, so they’re all still pretty little. I honestly don’t think they know any different. But they absolutely love it. I think when children are raised in a way that doesn’t put so much priority on things but instead on people and relationships, love and nature, they don’t think about “deserving” more—like having their own room or lots of toys. I really think living tiny has helped their attitudes around things.

Q:

Tell us a bit more about your business. You work from home in your front yard. Do you have any sort of workspace in the tiny home?

A:

That one’s been a little challenging, especially with a family of 5. There’s really not a lot of extra space in the tiny house. We have two bins in the tiny house that we keep all our files in. There’s a beautiful shelf that’s built into the wall of the tiny house and it has a lot of space for baskets and stuff. That’s where we keep all of our paperwork and checkbooks. It’s a mess right now but it works. And as much as possible we do online documents to cut down on paper.

When we moved to Tennessee, we literally just moved onto Dawson’s parents’ property on a tiny patch of gravel—altogether probably 20’ x 50’. Starting our woodworking business building sheds and chicken coops out front made it feel even smaller. When you’re starting your own business, it’s always there. Especially for us, it’s always literally in our front yard. You have to pass work to get to the car.

Thankfully buying the tiny house helped us save more so we could start our business, and it just took off. Our sheds and chicken coops are packed in like sardines in our front yard. And we’ve been hiring people, too. We’re at two employees now.

It actually all started when we started adding things to the tiny house, this love for woodworking. Like when we built the wall and we built the taller bed that’s also our couch. Dawson built all of those things and he found a passion for it.

Q:

Now that you’ve been living in your tiny home for a while, are there any things that you’ve found that are designed especially well and are useful in the tiny home? And anything you would change if you were to build it yourself?

A:

One of the reasons we fell in love with this tiny house is the kitchen sink. It’s huge and it has a big pull-down faucet. We literally give the children baths there. We love how big it is, especially with having so many people in there. The dishes build up and it never ends up piling onto the counter. The fridge is a decent size too— it’s a ¾ size fridge. It works for us really well. We also like the tables that you can flip up and down. Those are really cool because you can flip them down when you don’t need to use them or want more space in the house. And we love the size of the bathtub! It’s a full bathtub. Not skimping on stuff like that is really important when you’re in a tiny house, especially with children.

Oh, and high ceilings, too. We really love that. And the windows, oh my goodness. High ceilings and windows make it seem so much bigger. Especially in the winter when everyone’s in there.

Things I would have added…. I think I would prefer a regular toilet instead of a composting toilet. But at the same time, we don’t have that option because of the available utilities. The composting toilet has been tricky for us because there’s so many people and everything gets filled up really fast. And it stinks. We’re probably not doing everything we should be doing though. It’s been a realization of our waste. It really opens your eyes to that reality.

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Q:

It probably means you appreciate a regular toilet more than most people.

A:

Yes! My 3-year-old, it was just my birthday and she said, “Mama, for your birthday, I’m getting you a flushing toilet.”

Q:

People ask us all the time about the details of a composting toilet. Do you have anything else to add in that regard?

A:

Yeah, we use peat moss in it. You can also use the coconut fiber stuff, but the peat moss is cheaper and you can really get it anywhere. I think one of the tips for keeping it less smelly is that every time you do a number 2, you spin the tank three times like you’re supposed to.

Flushing it out every once in a while helps to. Some people say you’re not supposed to do that, but I think it helps cleanse out everything. In the beginning we were spraying it out with vinegar, but I felt like that wasn’t helping so we started spraying it with oregano which is antibacterial. I feel like that’s helped with the smell too.

Otherwise, we’re just really thankful for flushing toilets, but in the same token, we feel super eco-friendly and awesome. And it works, because we wouldn’t have had another option anyway. And again, it makes you realize that we have a lot of waste, and if we can put it back into the Earth, that’s really cool.

Q:

Yeah, we appreciate that. Because a lot of people are in a similar situation where they don’t have a septic tank, or can’t afford a septic tank.

A:

Another thing we would add in the tiny home is a little bit more storage above the kitchen—mostly because we have a lot of people that we need to feed. We don’t really have a spot for all of our food and toilet paper, paper towels, wipes, diapers, and stuff like that. So we’re always stacking stuff above the kitchen. Maybe a storage loft would have helped—but not a full loft, because it helps it feel bigger when there’s not a second loft. Just storage in general.
If we were doing it again, we’d probably go with a longer trailer—ours is 8.5’ x 24’.

Q:

That’s really helpful. Those are great things to think about. Storage is always an issue in tiny homes, but I think we’ve learned a lot over the years. There are always creative ways to find more storage. Some of our models are better for that just because of how they’re laid out, but it also kind of depends on what people’s needs are. Some people need more office space than storage, but with a family of 5, we can imagine what a challenge storage must be. We really admire you guys for that. It’s difficult with even just one kid—they just come with a lot of stuff!

A:

Oh yeah, and people are always wanting to give you stuff when you have children.

Q:

Yeah, you have to find nice ways to say no.

A:

It’s a good excuse! “Oh, we’re in a tiny house, sorry.”

Q:

The last question we have is just a general one: Do you have any other advice for people who are thinking about going tiny?

A:

The biggest thing that tiny house life has taught us is to really value what you have—get rid of the things that are not loved, not used, or just dragging you down. Why take the time, which is just as valuable as money, to clean these things and keep up with these things that you don’t even use most of the time? I would say my biggest piece of advice is to determine what you value most—and tiny living will really help you do that.

Another thing that we’ve learned is, just try it! It’s OK to just try something. I know it’s a big decision. You can put your stuff in storage if you don’t want to get rid of it. But life is too short to think so much about making everything perfect. I think I’ve learned that myself. Sometimes you just gotta go out on a limb and see if it works for you. We love it. We think everyone should try it out at some point.

At least try having less stuff so you can focus on what’s more valuable—relationships and love and nature and really just being able to breathe, not being weighed down by stuff. And it’s in every area of your life. Like with technology. When your phone is always updating and dinging, sometimes you just need to get rid of apps or turn your phone off a little bit. Clear things out of your life that are dragging you down spiritually, mentally, or emotionally. I think living tiny, not just in a house but in many areas, helps you not be weighed down. Keep life simple.

Q:

Everyone can likely relate to your comparison to the phone. Everybody has had moments where they feel like their phone is controlling them, constantly asking for their attention. And we don’t always realize that other things can do that for us too, other things in our environment. So just being aware of what is demanding your time and attention, what is taking your energy. That’s really well said. We like to say “Less is more” around here.

It sounds like you guys are planning to build a house soon. We’d be interested to hear what areas of your new home will be the most important. How has living tiny influenced maybe a layout that you’re looking for?

A:

We have noticed that the bedroom space is not as important as the living area and the kitchen. We’re really going to have a very small setup. If we build, it’s gonna be the kitchen and living room in the same area again. It’s just going to be really basic and streamlined. We know what we need and we’re not going to have anything else. No extra appliances or things like that. We literally only have a Vitamix, an oven that plugs in, and the fridge. The main focus space-wise will just be the kitchen and the living room. Just for the children—and there’s probably more to come—so there’s more room for them to play on rainy days. And one additional thing we’re having is a mudroom.

Q:

You guys really have a great story. It’s really inspiring and we love how you just went out on a limb. You went out on faith—let’s just do this, let’s follow our instincts. And you made it work. That’s fantastic. We appreciate you letting us share that with everyone. Thank you so much!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity!

Check out their woodworking business!

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5 models, 100's of configurations. Your perfect tiny home awaits.

5 models, 100's of configurations. Your perfect tiny home awaits.