We’re the Flake’s – a family of five living a Gypsy lifestyle. Bryan has been a NICU travel nurse* for five and a half years. Bethany is a stay at home mom to our three kids, one girl and two boys (ages 8, 9, and 11). We homeschool our kids and use the traveling that we get to do as a hands-on experience for learning. We love being able to explore the country and God’s amazing work throughout our travels.
A tiny home became an option for us in the fall of 2017. With moving so frequently due to our lifestyle, finding a rental for our family, and then dealing with the deposits and lease terms was becoming a major hassle. After three years of traveling, we decided to go tiny!
We had our tiny home built by Backcountry Tiny Homes in Vancouver, WA. We can not say enough good things about our builders or their work. We loved the experience of having Tina and Luke (the owners of BTH) design and build our home. From the time we decided we wanted to go Tiny, to actually setting foot in our completed home was ten months. While the build process was happening, we were living in Las Vegas, on assignment, while our home was built in Vancouver. We got daily updates from our builders via email and were included in each step along the way. Communication with our builders was something that made our build process move smoothly and kept us involved even though we were over 950 miles away. In designing our tiny home, we watched every tiny house show we could, made notes of things we liked and didn’t like. Internet searches led to many saved photos and ideas of what we liked and wanted in our own home. We knew pretty early on what we liked and wanted in our home: full-size appliances, a shower (no tub), two lofts and a small main floor bedroom, etc. The hardest thing to decide on was the look of the outside of our home.
The inspiration around our home was pretty basic – cozy. We wanted a space that felt like a tiny home and not a manufactured feel that you might get in an RV. We didn’t want to sacrifice everyday things (like a full-size fridge or a real toilet). All the items in our home were new.
One of the design features that are unique to our home is the catio! When we came to our builders, we knew we wanted a space dedicated to our cats and their liter. Tina came up with the amazing design of the catio! It is a space with two large windows that spans the width of the Tiny (about 8ft) & is 2 feet deep – there is also a fan in this space that sucks out the cat litter smell. It’s exactly what we wanted and is definitely unique. Another thing that is unique is the space directly under the catio, it is an unfinished storage area, accessible from the outside of the tiny. We knew we would need a space to store extra things (like Christmas decorations and extra household supplies), and this space works perfectly for us. It measures about 8’ wide x 4’ tall x 2’ deep. The stairs that lead to the master loft were custom made with TONS of storage. The washer/dryer combo is housed there with 13 drawers of various sizes. Our custom made couch (twin bed) has three enormous pull out drawers underneath that can hold so much! One of our favorite design features of the house is the beetle-kill accent walls. It is such beautiful wood, and we love how it contrasts with the white. Really we love the whole house and how it works perfectly for us; how it offers everything a “normal” house has, just in a small, more compact way.
Even with 5 of us, we do have privacy in our home. Bryan works night shift sometimes, so we have blackout curtains in the master loft with a blackout curtain that separates the master bedroom from the rest of the tiny. We have a locking, pocket door to the bathroom, and our daughter has a sliding barn door to her bedroom.
Bethany’s mom visits from Virginia a few times a year. When designing the home, we knew that we would need a space for her or any other guests to stay. We designed the living room area with this in mind. Our couch is technically a twin size bed that we use as a couch. When visitors come, they sleep there.
Our tiny home cost us around $72,000. You can actually buy our exact model on our builder’s website. It’s the Grizzly!
With the travel nurse lifestyle, we are on the move several times a year. Our home has already traveled over 3,500 miles (in a year and a half!)! We have lived in California, Montana, Utah, & Wyoming since picking the house up in Washington State. We have stayed on private property and at campgrounds. Each has its own pros and cons, and the price has fluctuated between $400 – $1200 a month. Our ability to move more frequently with the tiny home is one of the major reasons we decided to go tiny – in the last ten months alone, we have lived in 4 different states and seen so much of the Western part of the US.
The downsizing process wasn’t too difficult for us. But we took about six months and slowly got rid of things. If we had to do it all at once, we think it would have been harder. Each month we’d go through things and slowly get rid of a little more each time. On our first travel nurse assignment, we had a 26′ Uhaul truck packed to the brim! When we left Vegas to pick up our Tiny Home, all of our items fit into a 10′ pull behind trailer – major pairing down!
One of the best things about living tiny is the flexibility to be able to move as often as we would like. To be able to pick up and move within a couple of days. We no longer need to rent a Uhaul, hire movers, break leases, or even have to pack really. Sometimes it can be hard to be stuck inside a 30×8′ space for days when it’s snowing outside, but other than that, we haven’t really seen many negatives. The washer/dryer combo has given us so trouble and is not compatible with a family of 5! Typical RV woes can be inconvenient – frozen water/sewer lines and such can be an adjustment, but we feel that the pros outweigh the cons!
If we could start over again, the number one thing we would change is making space for a full-size washer and dryer. The combo just does not work for us. If we were to build a second tiny home, we’d definitely make changes and shift the layout around a bit.
Living the Tiny lifestyle has improved our lives in so many ways. We have become closer as a family; we have learned to value the experiences and time we have together over materialistic things. We have been able to save money with the tiny home (not having to pay for Uhauls or movers, not having deposits on rentals. And cheaper monthly living as well.) We feel so incredibly blessed that God has given us the opportunity to live this unique lifestyle and that we can have such a nice, quality built home! We feel very blessed.
If you want to go tiny, don’t be afraid! You can do it. We understand that not everyone can or wants to live Tiny, and that’s okay! If you have the desire to go tiny, do your research. Find out exactly what you want in your tiny house and don’t compromise. If you plan to have someone build your home, make sure that you mesh well with the builder. The communication, quality, and overall vibe you get from the builder is far more important than their location. (Many builders will deliver the home for an extra fee.)
The trailer measures 30ft long x 8.6ft wide x 13.6ft tall. Weighs 22,000 pounds fully loaded. (Dry weight 18.5k) Our Tiny is 416sq ft (250 without the lofts)
*(Travel nursing is when a hospital needs extra nurses for a certain amount of time due to a flux in patients, staff being on leave, etc. A travel nurse company sets up contracts with these hospitals and provide the extra staff they need. Each assignment is typically 13 weeks long with extensions possible if the hospital needs extra help for longer.)