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real estate

Living Well in a Little House

Freelance journalist Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell and her husband, of Yellville, Arkansas, chose to downsize to a 480-square-foot lake house that they share with their five dogs.

KIPLINGER: Why the tiny house?

FIVECOAT-CAMPBELL: We used to live in a 1,100-square-foot house in a Kansas City suburb and had this 480-square-foot home as a lake house. My mother passed away in 2007, and we decided we were ready for a change. When we moved here, we intended to build a new house and use this one as a guest cabin and office. But our investments went south, and we didn’t get as much for our Kansas City house as we had hoped.

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How did you adjust to living in a smaller space? I remember telling my aunt that we couldn’t live in a house this size. But the longer we stayed, the more we realized we could do it, and that it fits in more with our lifestyle. We don’t like to spend a lot of time cleaning or doing repairs or decorating. We’re more outdoor types.

How did you downsize your possessions? We gave 100 boxes’ worth to the Salvation Army. But we’re still working on it.

Was it tough letting go? I think we Americans have a sometimes unhealthy attachment to our stuff. But when we got right down to it, all we needed was a few changes of clothes, cooking gear and our nec­essities. Moving here made me choose the things I loved. When you have a small house, you don’t have room for anything else.

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What are the financial benefits? We refinanced this property from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage. The monthly payment is the same, but that’ll save a great deal of interest in the long run. We only have a window air-conditioning unit, and we use a wood stove for heat. So we save $50 a month in summer and $100 a month in winter on utilities.

What are you doing with your savings? We’re trying to rebuild our emergency fund. We had to use some of that money because my husband has been laid off twice since 2008. And we’re paying down debt. We hope to be debt-free in seven years. Also, my husband is 50 and a diesel mechanic, and we hope to see him retire by the time he’s 60.

Are there other advantages to the tiny-house lifestyle? I can clean my house in two hours, from top to bottom, very thoroughly.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell blogs weekly about her tiny-house lifestyle at www.LivingLargeInOurLittleHouse.com, where she is joined by other followers of the growing small-house movement.

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