“Building a tiny house is like making a huge deposit in your ‘choice' bank. When it's done, you can kick back and enjoy not making choices for a while.” – Ethan Waldman
With a major Tiny House Decisions update released today, a wonderful guide from Ethan Waldman (which I'm a proud affiliate for), I wanted to give you the latest and greatest update on my review.
Here are two things I want you to know up-front:
- I've been following Ethan's work for years and, even when he creates something that I think won't jive with me, it normally does.
- I have no plans to build a tiny house. But I learned a ton about minimalism, simple-living, and being intentional through Tiny House Decisions.
So yes, this resource is primarily for people crafting their current or future tiny house strategy. However, you'd be surprised by how much learning about ancient zoning codes or being resourceful off-grid can be applied to your day-to-day.
This review is ideal for people who:
- Want an overview of the complex tiny house planning process.
- Need to convince their partner, friends, or family that downsizing your home leads to upsizing your freedom.
- Like pretty pictures, wonderful storytelling, and simplified data.
- Enjoy exploring minimalism in highly practical ways.
- Ask, “But, what about … ?” to every other answer they get.
Ready to get tiny? OK. Let's hit it!
What I Like
I'm a dude who normally analyzes decisions with a spreadsheet.
But the way Ethan structured this resource – the big “why” decisions first, engaging stories second, hard numbers third, and practical day-to-day stuff fourth – worked for me. The stunning layout for Tiny House Decisions is also something that even spreadsheet minimalists like me can appreciate.
Getting specific, here are my favorite parts of Tiny House Decisions:
- The “pros” and “cons” decision framework was familiar and refreshing. I don't remember thinking, “But did he consider this?” Case in point: his quality commentary of vapor barriers to prevent moisture from damaging the fabric of a building. I doubt anyone will think about vapor barriers before they read Tiny House Decisions, but everyone will after they're done.
- Beautiful shades of grey. I was fascinated by Ethan's nuanced approach about everything from heating systems to tiny house technology. It took all of one page to illustrate his deep knowledge from his personal tiny house building experience, stellar research, and targeted interviews.
- The tiny house stories are well-done. Ethan asks the right questions and targets a diverse set of tiny house owners in his interviews. These stories feature a house without a trailer, a couple who had their house built for them, one fella who tried to repurpose materials and do the whole thing himself, an unsuccessful attempt to make a used trailer work, and more.
- Ethan keeps it real. You might need a composting toilet and a bucket of sawdust if you have a tiny house. There's no glorifying certain realities of the tiny lifestyle here.
- The electrical systems chapter rocked. I learned more about AC, DC, and RVs in a few pages than I have in the last decade.
- There are vivid, practical examples everywhere with links to even more information for the full context.
- The all-new Part 4 about moving into and living in your tiny house. There's groovy info about things like moving your house on wheels or skids, maintaining a power or water hookup, and the realities of tech use in a tiny space. Not to mention how to handle insurance, security, and protecting your house against critters and creatures of all kinds.
- Ethan's updated sections based on his now years of living in his tiny house. For example, he explains why he switched from his original PrecisionTemp hot water heater (because the entire unit froze hard and the copper piping inside burst) to a Bosch Tronic 3000.
- The guide is pretty. There are lots of pictures – some now even custom made – so you can better see what Ethan means.
What might get lost in any Tiny House Decisions review is that it's not just a guide.
The revised version has a brand new second level package with a made from scratch workbook to document your decisions and action plan along the way. It also contains video interviews – good video interviews – with icons like Tammy Strobel, Logan Smith, Andrew Odom, Laura Lavoie, and Macy Miller.
The cherry on top of the sundae is twelve system video tours filmed by Ethan in his own tiny house. I've seen the videos and have actually been inside Ethan's tiny house, so I get why he considers them premium content.
As a nerd and simple-living enthusiast, I became even more compelled to support his guide as I read passages like this one:
“I learned an important lesson in ninth grade algebra: When you’re solving a big long equation, once you make a mistake, that mistake is carried all the way through. The same is true of the decisions you make while building your tiny house. Each decision gets buried in layer upon layer of new construction, making it hard to undo.
Even more important is the fact that in a tiny house, where space is at a premium, once you locate one thing in your house (like where the couch will be), the rest of the layout becomes infinitely less flexible.” – Ethan Waldman
What I Want to See Changed
Even the best resources aren't perfect. So there are two things I'd like to see Ethan do in a future Tiny House Decisions version:
- Make it less United States-centric. The guide is completely relevant to people planning or building a tiny house outside of the U.S. However, some portions make assumptions that are only true in the U.S. For example, Ethan writes that propane is “easy to find anywhere in the country [U.S.].” That's not true in parts of Canada or Australia (let alone other less developed countries).
- More resources for on-grid tiny houses. Ethan strongly advocates for mobile tiny houses that can easily be off-grid. I get that. But I see a vibrant future for tiny houses in urban areas where traditional utilities like water, gas, and electric are plentiful. I'd love to see Tiny House Decisions be the vanguard of guides for getting more people to build small in the city. Do you also want Ethan to expand his guide to be just as powerful for city slickers?
My Final Recommendation
I recommend Tiny House Decisions if you fall into any of these categories:
- You don't have the time or patience to spend hundreds of hours doing your own research.
- You like having beginner, intermediate, and advanced content all in one place.
- You need “why to” resources as much as “how to” resources.
- You appreciate a balance of stories, data, and pictures to make decisions.
- You're actively planning to build a tiny house or are simply fascinated by them.
- You want a deep understanding of the minimalism and simple living movements from a unique perspective.
- You enjoy simple, yet comprehensive, resources that eliminate the need for many others.
- You need to understand how biased our zoning codes, environmental practices, and our general culture is towards “bigger is better.”
If tiny houses are your thing – or you'd like them to become your thing – I can't imagine a better value than a Tiny House Decisions package.
Tammy Strobel said it well when she wrote:
“Tiny House Decisions is insightful, honest, and thoughtful. If you want to live in a tiny house, this guide will empower you to make informed decisions.”
The guide itself is great, but the video interviews, workboook, and system tours in The Multimedia Experience edition add even more to your tiny house journey.
Click here to explore the Tiny House Decisions packages and see which one fits you the best.
Now it's your turn to review this Tiny House Decisions run down.
Do you have experience with another product or service similar to Tiny House Decisions? Leave a comment, share your insight, and let's get tiny together.
P.S. Ethan has a book called Tiny House Parking which is all about … you guessed it: where to park your tiny house. I've read it as well and, besides being super, it can be a great supplement to Tiny House Decisions.