Life from inside the tiny house movement
If Christina Neaf steps on a specific quadrant inside her home, she may find herself in three places all at once — her living room, kitchen and foyer.
Neaf, an environmental studies alumna, moved from Orlando to Grand Junction, Colorado after her August graduation to join the tiny home movement creeping along the Pacific Northwest.
Neaf said the decision came after wanting to reduce her carbon footprint while having the flexibility to travel. Her epiphany yielded the idea of purchasing and building a tiny house, which is mobile and can be hooked to the back of her Chevy Silverado 2500.
“I wanted an adventure and to be free. I wanted to be off-grid with low [ecological] impact,” Neaf said. “My tiny house is just under 200 square feet.”
The process of building Neaf’s tiny home began last year when she stumbled across a tiny home construction company, Tumbleweed, online. After contacting Tumbleweed, which has been building tiny homes since 2000, Neaf was able to travel to Colorado to meet with designers who helped her customize her house and obtain the proper RV license for her miniature, mobile home.
Ross Beck, the operational manager of Tumbleweed, referred to this process as the “contract drawing.” Once a customer is satisfied with visuals of their home, they sign a contract which permits the construction of the home to take place, he said.
“It’s a written agreement, and if we’re late we give back a certain fee. It’s approximately a eight- to 10-week build schedule, but it only takes two to three weeks to build one,” Beck said.
Neaf’s customized tiny home embodies the elements of conservation methods while having space for her three rescue muts, Bear, Gus and Troggy.
The outside of her home is planted with solar panels so that her home can rely solely off of a Goal-Zero solar-powered generator. Inside of the home, Neaf said visitors are surprised as their eyes scale the studio-sized space consisting of an upstairs office, kitchen and downstairs bedroom. Inside her bathroom lies an appliance that may seem like a taboo to most — a composting toilet.
But Neaf said she actually got the idea from a book pushed at UCF called “Garbology.”
“Having a composting toilet seems like a crazy idea,” she said. “One of the biggest ways we waste water is through the standard use of toilets. It sounds hippie when I say it, but it’s completely sanitary — more sanitary than toilet water.”
Having a space that allots time for outdoor adventure and is conscious of energy consumption isn’t the only thing driving people into tinier homes. It’s the cost efficiency as well, Beck said.
“People want a simpler lifestyle so they save money when they don’t buy as much,” he said. “It probably has to do with younger people wanting more experience than possessions.”
Beck said the company has grown more than 50 percent every year in the last six years, and they’ve connected the popularity of the homes to single, young and middle-aged women who are looking to build their own homes while saving money.
Neaf, who took out a bank loan to pay for her home, pays $500 a month in expenses for her tiny house.
Meanwhile, a studio apartment located in Orlando at the Lakeview Pointe apartment complex is almost $600 per month for rent without the costs of utilities, according to rent.com. The two biggest discrepancies between the monthly costs is the 17 percent difference and the notion that Neaf will eventually own her home, whereas a renter cannot pay to own their apartment.
“It’s cheaper to pay off my house than rent,” Neaf said.
Beck said as the trend continues to birth a movement, he believes that southern states such as Florida will begin to see these minimalist housing options trickle into their neighborhoods, such as the Orlando Lakefront tiny home and RV community growing out of College Park.
Without the worry of maintaining a larger spaced home, Neaf is able to wake up every morning to hike with her dogs or to lounge in tranquility to view the soft pink horizon where the sky kisses the rocky, mountainous terrain of the Colorado National Monument located across from her home.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer at the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.