Our First Tiny Home Experience

Tiny homes have been trending for a few years now. There are loads of benefits to tiny living including a lower mortgage or no mortgage, a smaller environmental footprint, simpler living, and minimal bills. Dan and I have discussed different home types for ourselves and this category comes up quite often. Before this idea becomes a blueprint we thought it best to experience a tiny home for ourselves.

We booked an Airbnb in Las Vegas as a trial run to see just how practical tiny living can be. Our Airbnb hosts run a tiny home building company and the tiny home they were renting was built by them in their backyard with an excellent view of the Vegas strip.

Prior to arriving at the house we received a two paragraph message from the host informing us how to use the composting toilet. Like holy literal shit, I was already scared to poop; I was scared shitless – pun intended! When we arrived to the 250 square foot home we were immediately impressed with the design and exterior. The home was called “The Blue Baloo.” The home was covered in blue siding complemented by a light wood siding running down the middle.

When we walked through the dark blue door we were greeted with a small seating area and beautiful kitchenette inclusive of a sink and refrigerator. To the left of the fridge was a stackable washer and dryer. At the end of the “hallway” was the bathroom….and the composting toilet. Above the toilet were instructions on how to use the toilet. Open the hatch, do your business, close the hatch, spin the lever 3 times (took some effort), pick up the toilet and twirl it around our head, tap it gently on the side with harry potter’s wand and then spray some water. A little much, but the deed was done (yes we realize you can get a regular toilet in a tiny home).

We dined out for the evening so we didn’t attempt cooking in the tiny kitchen. Next, we tried the shower. The tub was very small, the shower head was low so we had to duck under to use it. A lot of the water splashed out onto the floor, even with the shower head turned inwards – a little inconvenient.

Both bedrooms were in the loft above. A ladder was used to access the loft. Once you reached the top you had to literally crawl to the bed and lay down, no sitting up in the bed due to the low ceilings. I was terrified I was going to wake up in the middle of the night and smash my head into the ceiling. Luckily we woke up without a concussion.

No we could not live in a tiny house, however, we do want to live in a smaller home, maybe between 800-1000 square feet. We just want to live in a house where we can poop in comfort.

How to Build a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From

We are constantly looking forward to our days off, our next trip, or the weekend.  In fact, in today’s world of social media filled with picture perfect filters and constant travel content; the feeling of escape is well, hard to escape.

What if there wasn’t a need for escape, is it possible to form a life we don’t need a break from?

While I’m absolutely a proponent of vacation and travel, I believe it’s possible to live your best life from home.  Here are 5 ways I’ve begun building a life I don’t need to run from.

1. Eliminate Unnecessary Possessions

This one is big.  How many times have you walked into a cluttered hotel room, or vacation home littered with cluttered counter space or cabinets filled with mismatched coffee cups and dishware?  You haven’t (unless you’ve recently stayed in a 2 star Airbnb).  Removing clutter from your personal life renews a since of freedom.  Contrary to what we are conditioned to believe – more is not better.  More equals more work, more cleaning, more maintenance.  Focusing on less will give you more time to focus on yourself. 

2. Love Yourself

It’s hard to build relationships and love others if we don’t first love ourselves.  Guard your time and your energy.  Don’t let others keep you from yourself.  You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.  Enjoy a book, exercise, eat healthy, and rest.  It’s important to realize this is not a selfish act, but preservation of self. 

3. Do What You Love

Routines are easy to fall into, we all have one.  Ensure you incorporate what you love daily into your life.  This could be a hobby or an activity that sparks joy.  Don’t let your passions be pushed to the side, instead build them into your everyday life.

4. Make Your Job Matter

There is a need in today’s workforce to make a difference, an impact.  I’m here to tell you that any job that requires human interaction has the potential for positive impact.  Leverage your influence, engage and listen to others; your co-workers, clients, and leaders.  Build relationships, offer guidance, and serve others.  Some believe they need to change the world overnight, instead, focus on changing the world you can impact today.

5. Appreciate the Journey

Embrace the pace of your own journey.   Struggle and heartache are unfortunately a part of life.  However, from these experiences one thing is clear.  Pain is a catalyst for growth.  Our biggest life lessons and learning moments usually come from our hardest season.  It may be hard to see the silver lining in the midst of a storm, just remember that all storms pass; and we are left stronger.

Need Extra Travel Cash? Airbnb Can Help

Airbnb partnered with a travel enthusiast is a match made in heaven. Airbnb allows you to share your home and meet travelers from all corners of the globe, all while supplying a robust stream of income on assets you already own; when managed correctly. I currently manage two Airbnb properties, one full-time and one part-time. Airbnb currently funds all my mortgages, and has provided a major bump to my savings. Below are my tips on creating a lucrative business as a new Airbnb host.

Step 1: Create a Descriptive Listing

Create a unique, detailed description of your space. Outline what makes it special, along with what you have to offer. Is it a secluded cabin with vaulted ceilings? Or a modern city apartment, with bold industrial design? Think about what separates your space from the competition and why people would want to choose it.

Creating a listing is free, so don’t be nervous if you’re not getting bookings – you won’t be out any cash. Speaking of cash make sure you set a competitive rate, Airbnb will recommend a rate based on your market, however, I would encourage you to do your own research. Search your location as a guest, and compare similar homes. Make sure you adjust rates based on peak times, holidays, and local events as well.

Entire Space vs. Shared Space

An entire space is much more attractive to potential guests. People really do appreciate privacy. Many people are hesitant to share their home with total strangers, and this is understandable. I honestly was the same way. I started off posting my cabin as a shared space. This lasted for the first booking. When my guests arrived I instantly felt intrusive. These people were here for a romantic getaway and here I was hulled up in my room not sure if I should come out or not. It just felt weird.

That being said, I still didn’t want guests in my personal space; my bedroom or bathroom. Depending on your floor plan this may not be an option, however if it is and you do not want guests in a particular area, put that in your listing. I purchased a smartlock for my bedroom (which is connected to my bathroom) to restrict that area to guests. This still allows the guests to use all the common areas, and the guest bedroom and bath. I also prefer this because it speeds up the cleaning process, and provides a safe area for storage.

Step 2: Get Your Space Ready

Establish functionality in your home – what do you look for when you travel or stay in a hotel? Do you have a luggage rack, towels, sheets, hairdryer, soap, shampoo? Airbnb requires some of these essentials (including safety items) so make sure you hit all the necessities.

De-clutter your space, I use the KonMari Method of tidying to ensure my locations are organized and streamlined. Ditch all the personal belongings. I highly recommend removing the family photos and personal knick knacks. Guests don’t want to see photos of Grandma’s 90th birthday party.

Ensure your space is clean. Dust blinds, clean baseboards, organize cabinets, dust, mop, and deep clean the shower (I literally shine an LED flashlight around the shower to ensure there are no hairs). I use a Roomba in both homes, and it’s a lifesaver if you hate vacuuming. You can check out my must have Airbnb start-up essentials here.

Step 3: Photos & Guidebook

You now have a description, and a clean space. It’s time for pictures, this includes capturing those special offerings (ie: coffee bar, amenities, unique architecture/art). Quality of your photos is vital, sometimes a picture is all a potential guest will look at. The iPhone camera is the most used camera for Airbnb photos, so you definitively don’t need a professional. Make sure you have plenty of natural light and take horizontal shots.

Now its time to incorporate some of those great shots into a guidebook along with your favorite restaurants, and attractions in your area. This is also a good area (along with in your listing) to provide your house rules, cleaning expectations, restricted areas, and safety items. A nice touch is to also include the nearest gas station, grocery store and movie theater.

Step 4: Welcome Your Guests

This can be done a few different ways. Some hosts like to greet their guests in person to provide an overview of the home and exchange the keys. I prefer to use a lock-box and communicate via the Airbnb app. I always contact my guests two days before the arrival date to go over the key pad code, directions, communication expectations and answer any questions. Make sure you reply quickly to guest messages and requests.

Step 5: Collect & Reset

Airbnb handles all the money for you. They can send your hard earned money through Paypal or direct deposit – after they take out the 3% service fee. Hosts are usually paid 24 hours after check-in

Now that you’ve been paid and your guests have checked out, it’s time to clean and reset your space for the next guest. Make sure you set a reasonable cleaning fee. My personal rule of thumb is $20.00 per 500 square feet of used space.

Consistency Is Key

In any business, maintaining and constant improvement is key. Don’t get defensive if you receive feedback from guests. If they see a need for improvement it’s likely someone else would spot it as well. Feedback is a gift, and is very valuable in the Airbnb world.

Continue to build relationships with guests and establish credibility by tactfully soliciting reviews. Once you complete 10 reservations and maintain a 4.8/5 rating, you may be eligible for superhost status which has an array of benefits including better search results. Check out the full list the eligibility requirements here.

Airbnb can be a lucrative business if you continue to learn, establish relationships, and maintain your space. These steps really helped guide my business strategy and have contributed to my overall success.

What do you think, are you ready to give Airbnb a shot?

Airbnb Start-Up Essentials

I currently manage two Airbnbs and I’ve found the below products to be the most efficient and effective when starting up. I am a bit of an Amazon junkie – which you will quickly notice below. Products are affiliate links, but have all been tested by myself and have proven to be staple in my business. Products are organized by room/category to make your search easier.

Cleaning

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Are you a paper towel hog? Save money and product by converting to these microfiber cloths. After I’m done with them I wash them during my next cleaning. They pick up way more than paper towels, are great for dusting, and provide a deeper clean.

Rubbermaid Cleaning Caddy

Keep your cleaning supplies organized and in one place. This cleaning caddy makes cleaning a lot simpler and it’s easy for you to gauge when you are low on supplies. I also store my microfiber cleaning cloths in the caddy for easy access.

Roomba Vacuum Cleaner

Ok, this is a game changer. I have never, ever used a vacuum in either one of my properties. The iRobot 890 Robot Vacuum Cleaner with wi-fi connectivity makes it easy to schedule cleanings via the app, or activate it to start cleaning from anywhere. I have it start vacuuming as soon as my guests leave the house. My floors, are spotless (carpet and hardwood).

Bathroom

Shower Curtain & Liner

What makes this shower curtain special is the easy snap-in, snap-out liner. You don’t need to take the entire shower curtain down to wash it. Also if you need a new liner you can buy one separately.

Eco Amenities – Shampoo & Soap

These are an absolute must have! Shipped in bulk, these 200 count hotel sized shampoo and soaps will not go to waste. They are each individually wrapped and offer a pleasant subtle scent.

Conair Travel Hairdryer

A hairdryer is necessary if you plan on hosting anyone with hair. This hairdryer is compact, has a fold in handle and retractable cord. For the purpose of space and atheistic (ie: no sloppy cord wrapped around it) it’s a no brainer.

First Aid Kit

This 299 piece first aid kit comes complete with a condensed soft case. It’s easy to keep in a bathroom drawer where it can be easily accessible for guests. Don’t forget to include the location of your first aid kit in your guestbook/welcome packet.

Bedroom

Zinus Memory Foam Mattress

If there is one thing my guest’s rave about, it’s this mattress. Guests are shocked at the price tag – and not in a bad way. This 12 inch queen mattress comes shipped (prime delivery) to your door for a total of $279.00! I have this mattress in both my homes and recently converted my personal $1200 mattress to one was well. It’s that good. No boxspring required.

AmazonBasics Alternative Down Pillows

A two pack of soft, affordable, snuggly goodness. Not much else I can say.

Casual Home Luggage Rack

A luggage rack is a necessity for any Airbnb bedroom. I like Casual Home’s luggage rack mainly because of the fold out shelf below. This gives travelers additional storage space. They also have a few different color options which is useful to match decor.

Kitchen

Over the Cabinet Storage Organizer

Most of us store all kinds of things in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, from plastic grocery bags, to cleaning supplies, it’s usually a mess. Now that you have all of your cleaning supplies in the above mentioned cleaning caddy, it’s time to tidy up the rest of this area.

17 Piece Utensil & Gadget Set

If your cutlery drawer is filled with mismatched accessories, different colored ladles and 3 types of the same spatula, it may be time to consider a uniformed approach. This utensil set offers all the necessities and then some; the measuring cups will also be a great addition of guests who love to cook.

YouCopia 30 Bottle Spice Organizer

Get your spices organized and in one location. This organizer allows you to pull out drawers of spices and lower them to eye level so you know exactly what you are working with. This organizer stores 30 different spices!

Living Room

Roku Smart TV

If you already have an Apple TV or Firestick this may not be for you. Guests want to be able to stream their favorite shows and movies, in today’s world web based streaming applications are non-negotiable. The Roku TV offers all these options without having any outside hardware, after all it’s a smart TV. Also, there’s something about having just one remote.

When Swiping Right, Was Right

Sometimes you need a little more than the About Us section to really outline any sense of a person or in this case a couple. If you’d prefer the succinct version checking out the About Us piece is fine, but if you want to know how “we” came to be, stick around.

The gay dating scene has never been easy – especially for me. I remember when the first commercial – yes, commercial on television came across the television almost exactly 10 years ago in March 2009, highlighting Grindr. I was at home visiting my parents from college and thought, what an ingenious idea; now I think, what a shit show disaster/hot mess express.

It would take many other online dating sites and apps before I landed my main squeeze. Not to mention a couple relationships and dates I lost count of. When I moved home after graduating college to my hometown (population, 4200) to take on my first restaurant management job on a riverboat casino, my chances of finding love dwindled quite a bit. The only real options were between the closeted Amish guy next door or the closeted redneck plowing his daddy’s field. Oh, the decisions!

I really had to branch out here! I started with the website Gayquation, a personalized gay matchmaking service out of California. They put me through a rigorous telephone questionnaire, from personal questions like, top or bottom, to more general insights like hobbies, and favorite food. Weeks later they finally coupled me up with two guys, one already in a relationship and the other never returned my emails – guess this equation didn’t equal love.

Next up was Match.com, if you don’t pay for the subscription you basically get to see you have messages but aren’t able to read or respond. This goes for the other side too. If you send a message the other person may not be able to read or respond – so a lot of this ended in wasted time and energy.

Now I will say I had Bumble and Tinder throughout and liked the engaging sense that both of them offered through the swipe feature. I did land quite a few dates, and some short-term relationships. These apps are definitely more relationship oriented as long as you are direct and call out what your looking for. Let me reiterate, BE DIRECT! Do not waste your time, set expectations, be honest, post REAL PICTURES, and be relentlessly YOU. I always made the attempt to get out of the app and on the phone as soon as possible. Don’t waste each others time, it’s too valuable.

Ok, off my soapbox. The above strategy worked perfectly when I finally swiped right on the most handsome man, my amazing Daniel. Dan had the exact same mindset as me – numbers were exchanged, he called me immediately and setup a date the next day! The rest is really history, we instantly hit it off and put the dating apps in the grave. Just know that there is hope out there, and keep swiping.