Do you know anyone who is completely true to themselves? I treasure meeting someone who is doing exactly what makes them happy, living their essence. That’s what happened with this interview.
Many of the tiny house photos that we all see are staged photoshoots of model homes, meant as a blank canvas for us to paint with our lives. That’s why it was so interesting for me to come across this particular tiny home located on a farm in Southern Ontario.
It was immediately clear that this was “real life”, and this house and its owner are a single being living and breathing in perfect harmony.
A tiny home that is working – not in theory, but in (jam-making, plant-growing, avid-cycling) practice.
The owner of this Ontario tiny house is a sweet, humble young woman who prefers to be publicly known only as her Instagram handle, @SmallNotSimple. We had a phone conversation with S about how she ended up living in a tiny home and how she’s making it work.
The first thing you notice about this home is probably the plants. Then, the bikes. There are currently three bikes inside the tiny house: two in the built-in bike shed and one on the wall. A fourth bike “lives in the car”.
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S talks about throwing away some conventions to make the space work for her:
“I think, when you live tiny, [making the house an extension of you] becomes so much more important. You have such limited space. So in a way you have to make it work for you. Like, I don’t have a couch and a lot of people come in my house and are surprised by that. But I don’t really want a couch, I’m not a couch person. I just don’t hang out on couches. I’m active. I love being in the kitchen and I love creating. I love biking. And so having space to do those things is so much more valuable to me than having a space for a couch. When you have so little space, you have to make it your own.”
As a girl, she has always loved small spaces, so moving into a tiny home was easy and natural.
“I remember my dad was always a dreamer. And he dreamed about building and creating houses. At one point, as a child, I was looking at one of the books in his library and it had this idea of a built-in little bunk bed space for children. With the curtains and a little shelf, where they could make it their own little “caves”. And honestly, I fell in love with that concept of a little space that’s just yours.”
Building the tiny home is an exercise in self-knowledge… and budgeting
Like many young people in Ontario, S did not want to rent when she moved out on her own. For her, the decision was personal:
“This is the first home that I own, which is why it’s extra special, I think. I couldn’t fathom renting a place and spending all this money on something that I didn’t even love.”
I had a builder build my tiny house in 2019 and I was very involved in helping design it. With every decision, they would ask, “What do you think about this?” It really feels like this is my house because there’s so much of my own input.
What adds to the feeling that this tiny house is a living thing is the constant evolution – sometimes it’s a new ladder, sometimes an upgrade to a composting toilet.
“Part of that is that I felt like I couldn’t afford everything right away. So had to say, “ hold off on that. I can wait”. Some of the ideas I had in my head when I started the tiny house are actually becoming reality even now, which is kind of cool to see.”
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When S started looking at tiny houses, she had a notebook that she used to jot down facts, ideas, and wishlists. She came up with a list of needs and wants for the tiny home, which she took to her builder. Many decisions were cost-based, but she feels she ended up with all of her needs and most of her wants satisfied in the custom build:
“There were a lot of things that were hinging on money. Like the skylight. I knew I would love a skylight, but it was thousands of extra dollars. So, I had to think forward, will I value this enough five years down the road? I’m so happy that I did decide to put some skylights in because they make my house so bright, even on a cloudy day.”
“I feel like I haven’t had to make a lot of sacrifices at all.”
Need a tiny home parking spot in Ontario? You better be good at making connections
Right now, tiny houses on wheels are not written into the by-laws of most municipalities in Ontario. That means, many tiny house residents are living on private land where the owner is ok with bending the rules a little bit. The stories of how these connections are made are always full of chance encounters and coincidences.
For this tiny house owner, the story started at work:
“I just happened to be working casually on a farm. It was funny because at the time I drove a Smartcar and one guy at work asked me, “Oh, you drive a Smartcar. Do you want to live in a tiny house too?” And I was like, “yes”. So, I ended up getting a parking spot on one of the farm’s properties. I get water from a well on the property and they ran electrical to the spot where they knew I was going to park my home.”
Of course, this arrangement can work only until someone complains. But, why would they?
“It’s in my contract – if they get into any trouble for having the tiny house there, I will have to move it. But because I’m not some random person just parking a tiny house there, because I work on the farm, it could be considered a farm accessory dwelling as well. And of course, I am respectful of the land.”
“I tell people, “don’t even start building unless you know you have somewhere to put it because, honestly, that is half the battle right there.”
Finding happiness in a tiny home starts with finding yourself
“It’s definitely a journey and it’s all about learning about yourself – like, what do I value? I need lots of windows, lots of brightness, lots of light. If my plants can thrive, I can thrive. That kind of awareness.”
The way S uses her space tells a lot about her values, her love of nature and plants, her love of cooking and being active.
The moment when it all clicked?
“The second night I spent in the tiny house. The first night I didn’t have heating, so I basically slept in a sleeping bag. But the second night – all my stuff was there, my plants were there. It felt like home and that feels so amazing. It felt like I was on a honeymoon. I was in love with my house.”