Tiny Living

Goodbye, condo! Now this BC family lives in a tiny house at the base of a mountain

Kailani lives in a almost-300 square foot tiny house, nicknamed “Blackbear”, with her husband and five-year-old daughter.

“I think our number one reason for going tiny was that we wanted to reduce our footprint and have less in our life. My husband and I had traveled before, living just out of a backpack and we knew that we didn’t need that much and that we would be able to do it all in a small house.” 

Photo: Kailani Sutton

Condo life was not for them

“We wanted to just be able to step from the house right into nature.”

At first, the couple bought a small condo, thinking it would be the right way to go. Quickly, they realized it wasn’t for them.

“Before we purchased our condo, we had debated just building a tiny house instead. But we ended up going the condo route. And then, after about two years in our condo, my husband and I both said, “I think we made a mistake”. We were paying a mortgage. We had accumulated a lot of stuff.”

“We wanted to just be able to step from the house right into nature. In the condo, we had to go down an elevator and multiple doors just to get outside.”

The family lives in one of the most expensive areas of Canada – Sunshine Coast, BC – and they always knew they would not be buying a traditional house. However, they did want to participate in homeownership on a smaller scale. 

“We still wanted to have our own space and have some security in terms of owning some sort of living structure. The tiny house just seemed to make sense for that.” 

At the same time, Kailani is quick to point out that she understands it takes a certain amount of luck and privilege to be able to afford a tiny house as well. “I want to make sure that people understand that we know we were very lucky to be able to sell a condo to have that cash and benefit from the generational wealth of our parents, and that’s not the reality for everybody.”

Their journey to tiny living started with an intentional downsizing practice. 

“We started actively downsizing. I listened to podcasts of The Minimalist and I did this process where, every day of the month, you donate or give away that many items. So on the first, you give away one, on the second – two, and once you get through the whole month, you’ve given away over 300 things.”

“We made it a game and I found as we went along, it just got easier and easier to figure out the items that we could do without. Honestly, I don’t miss any of them. I don’t even remember many of the things that we downsized. We kept things that were really meaningful to us. For example, I still have all my photo albums, but I did pare them down. I don’t need 50 pictures from one event to remember it. I only need one or two.” 

“We went from our condo, which was around 1000 square feet, to renting a little house which was around 800 square feet, to our tiny house which is under 300. We did it step by step.” 

Photo: Kailani Sutton

Downsizing and decluttering is an ongoing process that still brings her joy

“We still somehow accumulate a lot of stuff.”

Kailani has lived in the tiny house for three years, with two other people. She knows from experience that getting rid of stuff is not a one-and-done thing.

“It’s an ongoing process. Even though, as an intentional minimalist, you try not to bring in new stuff. We still somehow accumulate a lot of stuff.”

Going category by category, the family pares down their collections of shoes, coats, stuffed animals and books. The tiny house helps by providing a template – only a certain amount of space is allotted for each category of item. 

“It’s a conversation that we have to have on the regular. Recognizing, for example, that our shoe rack is getting a little full. We have specific places that things go and once that spot is full, it’s time to clear out.”

Kailani laughs, “otherwise, your tiny house will just be so filled with things, you won’t be able to move. That is a real threat.”

Of course, the house is not always spotless. Kailani is the first to tell you:

“My house can be an absolute disaster, which it often is because three of us live there and we make family messes. I have a playlist for when I want to clean my whole house. And it’s like four songs.”

Photo: Kailani Sutton

Her tiny house gives her freedom to be her own boss and build a business she believes in

“Let’s have less demand on new items and make second hand our first choice.”

Rather than moving into progressively bigger and more expensive homes, downsizing liberated Kailani from centering her lifestyle around her bills.

“It’s been amazing. I think that our decision to go tiny is really the reason that I’m able to choose to run my business. It’s not the most lucrative business, but it’s something I really believe in.”

Kailani created and now runs a store called Coast Kids Reshop, selling second hand clothing for children. Her passion for reducing her environmental footprint threads through her company as well. 

“I think that’s the shift that everybody needs to start to think about. The world is so full of stuff and we need to reduce how much we all purchase. Let’s have less demand on new items and make second hand our first choice.”

Photo: Kailani Sutton

The tiny house is their forever home at the end of a dirt road

“We’ve thought about those things for the future because we do want this tiny house to be our forever home.”

“It definitely felt like a dream for the first little bit. We have been working towards this for so many years, but it was like, “is this real? Is this really happening?” 

“We’re very happy there. We might think about building a three-season room on the side, like a 100 square foot flex space. My husband could have band practice there and when our daughter is a teenager, she could have her friends over to hang out.”

“When my husband and I are older, maybe we won’t be able to use the stairs regularly to go up to our loft. So, we built our tiny house office space to be big enough that we could move our bed into that room on the main floor. We’ve thought about those things for the future because we do want this tiny house to be our forever home.”

Photo: Kailani Sutton

The family’s tiny house is on five acres at the end of a dirt road. Kailani credits the ease of her tiny house build to working with her local builder, Sunshine Tiny Homes and the amazing location to pure luck.

“At first, finding a location was a bit of a challenge and causing me a lot of stress. But then, I joined a local group that was advocating for affordable housing in the community. Through there, I met somebody who knew somebody who was looking to rent a pad for a tiny house.”

“Through that group, we connected with this amazing family that we rent our space from. They are just the coolest, greatest landlords ever. Their kids are best friends with my daughter.”

Kailani wants to encourage more people to consider renting our parts of their land to tiny home owners. 

“It’s really easy. The site was prepared over a couple of weekends and then you just get rent money every month. You don’t have to take care of the house or fix anything.” 

And, of course, you could end up with wonderful neighbours – kind people who own a tiny home, care about living intentionally, and take care of the environment.

1 Comment

  1. Such a lovely story. And very inspiring. My husband and I, originally from Vancouver/Victoria, currently live in France where property is sooooo much more affordable than Canada, the US and the UK. However, we are thinking about returning to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. However the proceeds from the sale of our Condo here in France would only be a down payment for a condo anywhere in Canada now. Living in the UK and France now for over 20 years we have become very used to living in small places. So we are very much interested in the Small House movement back in Canada, specifically on Vancouver Island.

    We therefore have a number of questions about where we could build a small home, where they are allowed, land costs and the cost of various Small Homes.

    Any assistance would be very much appreciated at this early stage of investigation.


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