I have to admit, I didn't start following Shannon on Instagram because she lives in a tiny house or because I thought she might have looked familiar from the reality TV show, "Tiny House Nation." I actually became interested in Shannon because of her yoga and pole-dancing skills.
Browse through her feed and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's hard not to be impressed that she does all this on a pole in the middle of a small living space.
Looking to downsize, but aren't certain you could live in a camper or van in someone's backyard? Shannon's honesty will help you decide if a tiny house is for you.
Square Feet: 210
currently living: Rochester, New York
Tim and I live on a Christmas tree farm owned by one of my coworkers.
How did you find land?
When we first built the tiny house, several of my family members thought what we were doing was really great, so I talked to my family about parking on their land. At first, it didn’t work out because their property was in transition and unsettled.
So we found another backyard to live in, and after about a year, they offered to host us! We are really grateful for how things worked out because the property owners became really good friends of ours—family, really. We were so lucky to find people who were understanding and willing to take a chance on us living on their land.
Years Living small: 1
make, model and year: Minim Tiny Home, 2014
A Minim House is a tiny house built on a utility trailer using SIPS (structurally insulated panels)—sort of a kit home in a way.
Why did you choose a tiny house?
It took a long time to get Tim on board with tiny living. I originally proposed a Yurt, and he was like, “I am not living in a Mongolian circus tent.” There’s a name to this strategy, right? The one where you start with an absurd offer in hopes of ending up exactly where you want to be?
Anyway, I then started looking at tiny houses on wheels, and he was dead set against that too. One day, I came across photos of the original MiNiM home built by Brian Levy, and I was totally in love. As soon as Tim saw it, he was like, “I could live in that.”
It's really the design—with the bed pushing under the office instead of being lofted—that makes the house what it is. It’s just so open and spacious. Soon after, Tim was on a business trip in Washington, DC, and visited the house. It was a done deal after that!
What were you doing before you went mobile?
Before we went tiny, we were living in a 1,600-square-foot house in Rochester. We bought the house after we got engaged six years ago.
Why did you make the change?
One day, I was talking to a coworker about yurts and had this revelation. I felt like I had been deceived into making this stupid decision to own this house that was such a waste.
I think it all stems back to literature for me. I read Thoreau in college, and right around the time of this revelation, I was reading "Into the Wild." Both were life-changing reads for me; they totally opened my eyes to a different mind-set about lifestyle.
Tim took some convincing, but he completely agreed that a big house was such a waste. And he’s all about simplicity. He grew up in a really small lake house, so he knew he could do it.
Didn't I see you on "Tiny House Nation?"
Tim and I were on "Tiny House Nation," but I have a really jaded opinion of that experience. It was not what I was expecting (which was documenting our process of going tiny). It was more of a complete takeover and felt really dishonest.
In truth, I cried the first day of production. I remember telling Tim, “I feel like we are doing the tiny house movement wrong.” I wouldn’t do it again, nor would I recommend it to anyone else.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
Getting rid of everything was easy in the sense that we really didn’t have a hard time looking at almost everything and being like, “Yup, that’s gotta go.” Our mind-set was that if we got rid of something that we later regretted, we could just buy a new one.
The process was really difficult, and we made about 100 trips to Goodwill. The workers knew us by name!
Actually moving into the house was so exciting, but there was some adjusting that had to happen. In our big house, I would wake up before work to do yoga and Tim would sleep in. In the tiny house, if I need to do yoga, he needs to get up too because the bed is in the yoga spot.
We also ran into some major bumps in the road when winter hit. We had a record winter in terms of temperature (regularly 20-30 degrees below zero). We had frozen water intake and frozen gray water pipes from the kitchen because the house wasn’t level (lesson learned). Tim spent lots of time out there with a hairdryer trying to thaw everything out. The water intake is heated, but there were parts of it that were suspended in the air, so we had to insulate those. We eventually just learned to keep jugs of water under the sink just in case and be prepared for the possibility that we may not have water when we wake up in the morning.
Once we figured the kinks out, though, we were fine. This winter should be much smoother.
Tell me about your tattoo.
Tim and I got a tattoo of the tiny house together. Tim only has two tattoos, and I have many. All of my tattoos really mean something special to me.
I have one on my arm that says, “I climbed the tree to see the world” and another on my forearms that says, “I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth.”
To me, the tiny house is both of those things: climbing the tree and seeing the earth.
How do you balance work and living in a small space?
I’m a teacher, and he’s a product line manager. I’m working at a high-needs high school and took on an extended school day. Tim's job is really demanding and unpredictable.
We just have to stay in communication about what we’re doing, especially since we share a vehicle (we traded in all of our vehicles for a truck that could pull the house). We’re both just really motivated to be the best at our jobs, and we like a challenge. We have a cleaning routine when we get home, and after that, we can relax and enjoy our time in the house.
What are your hobbies?
I like to run, practice pole, do yoga, do photography, climb things and really just get into shenanigans and do dangerous things. Tim likes to mountain bike, cook, brew beer and explore and try new things. We both like to snowboard in the winter.
We built space into the closet for a carboy, and he’s done some brewing in the tiny house. His brewing equipment lives under the sofa/bench.
I’m really happy that we picked the house design that we did, because it’s wider than most tiny houses on wheels (10 ft. interior). So it gave me enough space to keep my pole.
We also love to travel, and that was a huge motivation for us to go tiny. Because we are saving money on rent, we have been to some cool places—especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We are looking forward to going sailing in the Bahamas this winter and have some other trips planned. We also plan on getting our sky diving licenses in the spring so we can jump out of planes everywhere we go.
What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?
This is so hard! There are so many things we love (the windows, the open space...).
Chemex: We are totally coffee obsessed. My dad is a coffee snob and got us into some really good coffee, and once you go there, there’s no going back. We love to make coffee and just hang out together (or with friends).
Dog Crate Island: This thing serves so many purposes for us: dog crate, kitchen prep space, dining table, landing spot when we come in the door and more. It moves out of the way when I want to practice pole, and it just looks awesome.
Sonos Playbar and Sonos 1 Speakers: We love music and have it on almost constantly.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
We have so much more time and money, and we are really close to each other.
What is the most challenging thing?
There's some anxiety knowing that if someone discovers us and wants to be a stickler, we could have to leave wherever we are. We are flying under the radar in terms of code, so that can be stressful.
At our last location, it was even more stressful because we were on a busy road with a lot of foot traffic. I think we’re pretty safe now because we are literally in the middle of the woods.
What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?
Just do it. Don’t even worry about all of the things that could go wrong.
What's next for you? Any news you want to share?
We are living an awesome life and have the ability to travel much more than before. We are excited to pay off debt (working on it!) so that we can really free up some dough for some really exciting trips.