As retirement approaches, many seniors dream of being able to travel comfortably, some relish the opportunity to finally dig through old keepsakes — hopefully getting rid of many, and most think about what kind of legacy they are leaving for future generations.

This thought process is pointing many retired people in the direction of tiny houses.

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Tumbleweed Houses

Tiny Houses

Tiny houses are typically 100-400 square feet in size, they are mobile (although they can be secured atop firm foundations), and they generally include a living area, kitchen, bathroom, and bed, although due to limitations in space, many common accessories may be eliminated.

Instead of a desktop computer, tiny homers may use a laptop. Residents can ditch both a microwave and oven in favor of a toaster oven and single burner. There may be a mini instead of a full-sized fridge. And, of course, there’s a whole lot less room for books, clothing, and keepsakes.

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Tiny Home Builders

Opportunity to Live Out Their Dreams

While some may bristle at having to do away with creature comforts in old age, others are embracing the challenge of fitting their belongings and personalities into a modest-sized habitat.

Bette Presley, for instance, knew, as the San Luis Obispo Tribune explained, that “She wanted to live closer to nature, to be with the deer and the squirrels, to get rid of the clutter, to live simply, to be ‘off the grid’ as much as possible, and be closer to her kids.”

“We are consumers,” Presley told The Tribune. “We buy too much. We don’t need all our belongings… I just experienced the clutter, to live in excess, and I didn’t find it particularly satisfying.”

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The Tribune

So Presley downsized into a 166-square-foot cabin

With an average price tag of $23,000, a tiny house is much less expensive than most mortgages. The small space also means smaller utility bills — and a smaller carbon footprint, which gets at that question of what kind of world are people leaving their grandchildren.

Still Figuring it Out

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Daily Press

Is a tiny home the same as a mobile home? Are they trailers? Can they be zoned the same way as a garage or shed? States, counties, and municipalities are still figuring out how to properly and reasonably regulate these micro homes.

“Seniors Karen and Tom Rogers,” Southeast Virginia’s Daily Press writes, “purchased and are living in a TinyHouse 420-square-foot home on wheels in a mobile home park… [York] county gave them a citation for having it there. They appealed to the zoning board of appeals and won,” but the county was still considering a lawsuit.

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Daily Press

“The ordinance says you have to have manufactured homes in mobile home parks,” County Attorney James Barnett told the Daily Press‘, Johanna Somers. Since the Rogers had their home custom built, it is difficult to verify that their house is up to various codes as other prefabricated homes are before they leave the factory. It may be a while before the courts sort this one out!

If you’re a senior looking to reduce expenses, live more simply, and reduce your carbon footprint, you’re not alone. In 2014, more than 40% of tiny house owners were over 50. If this is something you’re interested in, make a plan for getting rid of a lot of your stuff, learn about local laws and ordinances, and do your research to learn what you can and can’t live without.