The most difficult thing about downsizing into a tiny house isn’t parting ways with six Goodwill runs worth of books, knickknacks and seldom-used sports equipment.
It’s not the bumped heads, the banged elbows, the constant editing, the fits of claustrophobia or the exhausting, storage-related strategizing that comes with a life less cluttered. It’s not the challenge of cohabiting in such close quarters or the realization that you’ll probably never own a Great Dane.
For many, it’s finding a place to put the damn house.
Although many cities and municipalities across the country have warmed up to the idea of micro-homes intermingling with traditionally sized abodes, zoning laws regarding habitable structure size continue to be a major issue for a number of tiny house dwellers.
Those who buy or already own their own land — land, of course, that they’re permitted to live on full-time in a small structure — have it relatively easy. In this scenario, a sense of security and permanence complements the drastically reduced square footage. It’s liberating but also safe — you’ve gone full-on minimalist without becoming completely unmoored.
Other tiny house dwellers find themselves relying on the kindness — and available backyards — of friends and family members, which can sometimes be tricky. After all, not everyone has parents or siblings who will let you park your 300-square-foot dream house-on-wheels in their driveway for six months until you figure out where the wind takes you next.
As sometimes touched down upon with regret in the 2015 documentary "Small is Beautiful," the lack of permanence and all-over-the-place zoning regulations can take its toll on those adjusting to life in a tiny house. This is why Try It Tiny, a website that seamlessly connects tiny house dwellers to folks with available land, is such a boon for those struggling with “parking” issues.
Driveways, backyards, organic farms and rural lots
Essentially a real estate rental listing website with roots in the sharing economy, Try It Tiny functions similarly to Airbnb.
In addition to geographic location, users can narrow their search for tiny house-friendly land shares using a number of criteria. Are there both electric and water hookups? How about septic? Is there on-site parking or access to a washer and dryer? And what’s the scenery like? Is it on the beach, nestled deep in the foods or located smack-dab in the middle city? Can I bring my dog?
Launched earlier this year by Indianan entrepreneur and tiny house enthusiast Maggie Daniels, Try It Tiny lists dozens of properties located from coast to coast. (A large number are located in Daniels’ native Hoosier State and in progressive coastal states with more lax zoning codes.) And like with Airbnb, the listings are, well, diverse, ranging from a backyard in suburban Long Beach, California, to a homestead in rural Georgia to what it appears to be a frat house parking lot at Purdue University. (All yours for $104 a night!)
While a small handful of urban plots available for long-term tiny house parking, a majority of the listings are bucolic spreads located on organic farms and idyllic wooded lots. Some listings fancy themselves as full-on tiny house compounds that fall somewhere between a campsite and an RV park. One available property in rural Glen Allen, Virginia, refers to itself as an “Exploration Focused Green RV and Eco Mobile Tiny House Landing.” The listing notes that there is "a private drive, natural wood fire pit and a private playground for and children included in your Eco journey."
That being said, for tiny house owners looking to put down roots somewhere that’s secluded and hosted by like-minded folks, the options on Try It Tiny appear bountiful. So if you’ve ever dreamed of parking a tiny house on an “off-grid homestead vegetable farm on a dirt road 90 minutes northeast of Minneapolis" or on a 5-acre Michigan nature sanctuary located "in deep country on a narrow dirt road, 17 miles from a town of any size,” Try It Tiny is a veritable goldmine.
One difference between peer-to-peer lodging platforms like Airbnb and Try It Tiny is the duration of bookings. While Airbnb revolves around short-term rentals, it’s safe to assume that a majority of Try It Tiny hosts — many of them active farmers — are looking to share their land with folks who will stick around a bit longer. Opening up your garage-turned-guest house to out-of-towners for a couple of nights is obviously less involved than having someone to haul an entire small home onto your property and hook up to your power supply for a few weeks. Like Airbnb hosts, Try It Tiny hosts are looking to bring in extra income. It’s safe to assume that they’d prefer to secure a friendly long-term booking in lieu of high tiny house turnover.
Still, in addition to monthly rates, most Try It Tiny listings do offer per-night rates — some as low as $10 — for nomadic tiny house-rs needing to drop anchor for just a few nights.
Like Airbnb, community-centered Try It Tiny also features a review and rating system and secure messaging for hosts to communicate with tiny house-toting potential guests. The platform also features a Dream Tiny section where users can "check out the latest ideas, builds, news and products from industry experts" as well as a blog tackling topical tiny house-y topics like "Hosting Thanksgiving in Your Tiny House" and "Black Friday: How to Survive a Minimalist's Worst Nightmare."
“It’s free to list and it’s your property, so you set the terms, the availability and what you are willing or not willing to offer,” Daniels explained to Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV. “It's cancelable at any time. It’s very low risk and it could be great for someone who was interested in Airbnb, but was not comfortable with having someone stay in their house, but are OK with having someone park in their driveway.”
Trying on tiny houses for size
As the Try it Tiny website notes, the platform “started from our dedication to help tiny house owners in need of a parking solution.” However, in addition to available land shares there’s also a robust selection of itty-bitty abodes up for grabs. Extending beyond typical tiny-houses-on-wheels, these petite rental properties, which range from a remote A-frame cabin on the Puget Sound to a converted school bus on beautiful Edisto Island, South Carolina, are geared toward hotel-eschewing travelers as well as folks who are interested in the tiny house movement but would rather try one on for size before taking the full plunge.
As for Try it Tiny founder Daniels, she founded the platform in response to her own unique living situation. Returning to Zionsville, Indiana, after a stint working on Wall Street, she purchased a rural tract of land and began renting out the home on the property on Airbnb as a means of bringing in supplemental income.
“I’m in very rural Zionsville and didn’t expect much, but I was getting booked every week. It got to the point where I got tired of leaving my property,” she tells WRTV.
And so, Daniels did her research and purchased a tiny home. This enabled her to continue living on her land while also hosting guests.
“The tiny house was a practical solution to my home rental ‘problem,'” Daniels elaborated to GrindTV. “The unexpected success and pleasant extra cash that I was earning on renting my modest ranch had me leaving my property regularly. The tiny house provided a solution to this and also gave me a guest house in the process.”
In addition to making sure the platform is running smoothly, Daniels is active in bringing big tiny house love to the greater Indianapolis area. In May, Try it Tiny organized a tiny house pop-up “boutique hotel” consisting of three separate tiny houses. Located on private property within walking distance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the so-called Indy 500 Pop-Up catered to those attending the nearby races. In December, the startup is hosting Tiny Wonderland, a three-day-long holiday-themed tiny home showcase in Zionsville's Lion's Park. Naturally, the tiny houses on display will be gussied up in their most festive seasonal attire.
Despite some NIMBYist backlash to the tiny house trend — low-income tiny house villages, in particular — in different communities, Daniels is confident that the movement will continue to gain steam as folks (hello, millennials and boomers) gravitate toward the pared-down simplicity of small home living. “The tiny house movement is rooted in folks wanting to live a more self-sufficient and minimalist type of lifestyle. I think it’s more about the mentality than it is about the small structure," she tells WRTV. “Those types of trends are moving into broader applications and are probably here to stay.”