The average teenager is usually hanging with friends, playing video games, and spending time just being a kid. Manual labor is the last thing on their mind. But one young teen changed that stereotype and made a YouTube obsession come alive.
At only 13 years old, through hard work and dedication, Luke made it possible to live on his own before high school graduation. He built a tiny home before most people had even considered moving out of their parent’s house! Read ahead and learn more about how Luke made it happen, and what he plans to do with the tiny home.
Luke Learned About The Tiny Homes Fad By Accident
Kids can spend hours on the internet playing video games and learning new things. Iowa middle school student Luke Thill stumbled upon something unique on YouTube one day that got his full attention: a tiny house.
Many of us know about the tiny house fad that is sweeping the nation. HGTV even has entire shows devoted to people who are giving up their 2000 square-foot homes in order to live the “tiny” lifestyle.
Luke Turned The Obsession Into Reality
Luke Thill might seem like any other normal 13-year-old on the surface, but once you get to know him you quickly realize he has bigger aspirations than most adults you know! After learning about tiny homes he noticed that no one under the age of 14 was making them. So he figured, why not him?
“I was just on YouTube looking around and came across a tiny house idea and then that spiraled into looking at almost every YouTube video there is, it felt like,” Thill told ABC News. “I got obsessed with them and decided to build my own.”
Parental Ground Rules
Luke Thill / Facebook
Parents are supposed to encourage their children to do great things. Once Thill’s parents saw he wanted to build a tiny home, the support was there. But it didn’t come without some rules. Afterall, he was aiming to build it in their backyard.
“We said, ‘If you’re that serious we have to set some ground rules,’” Thill’s dad Greg told ABC News. “We told him he had to have the financial responsibility of it, raise the money and choose the materials and stay in the budget.”
All In The Family
Thill started this project in 2016. Ordinarily, this would be a daunting task for a person of any age. In his situation, the help of Thill’s family was invaluable. He couldn’t have done it on his own.
His father helped with the construction, and his mom chipped in with the interior design. Thill’s twin brother and sister were also in on the act. All this help was nice but Thill was still missing one major necessity for building a tiny home: money.
Bargaining and a Work Ethic Like No Other
Outside of his family’s help, Thill also gained assistance through bargaining. He used his resources well and ended up getting the job done efficiently. Thill called upon the people he met in his life that he knew would be of help. But not without returning the favor!
“I have a neighbor who is a professional electrician, so I cleaned his garage out, and he taught me how to wire the house,” said Thill. “And in Cub Scouts, I knew a guy who was a carpet layer, and I mowed at his apartment buildings, and he helped me install the carpet.”
Trust The Process
Youtube / Luke Thill
Thill started building his new home in 2016. But according to him, it’s not finished yet. The 13-year-old faced some troubles during the process but never gave up. Thill doesn’t have an end date, but we know that he will tackle every problem he runs into, even if it extends the “finish” date.
“He’s a very driven kid for his age,” said Luke’s dad. “There were times the project got stalled out, and he had to earn more money for the next phase. He wouldn’t let it go and kept working at it.”
The Fascination With It All
For someone so young, Thill seems like he already has life figured out. Beyond his obsession with YouTube videos, there were other motives why he wanted to pursue this. And hearing the reasons, it sounds like he’s going to be a responsible young man in the future.
Thill said, “I like the minimalism. And I wanted to have a house without a huge mortgage.” It’s pretty safe to say that you can count on one hand other 13-year-olds you know that have this type of mindset.
Cutting Out The Costs
If you’re wondering how this tiny home only cost $1,500, we’ll tell you. The charming house is assembled with low-cost materials that help minimize the price of building it. Thill was smart in picking what to use for materials.
The tiny house novice used reclaimed materials. For example, there was the leftover siding he got from his grandma. There were also several windows and a front door that he received from his uncle.
What’s It Like In There?
If you think that you can’t fit much inside this tiny house- think again. Consider everything you can fit inside an average bedroom and multiply that by two. The home has space for the necessities, plus a little more.
For starters, it has a loft. There’s also a kitchen area with a beautiful counter. Some shelves lead to the sitting area. An ottoman is in place of a couch, and there is a TV mounted on the wall. He also installed a flip-down table.
“I want to show kids it’s possible to build at this age,” said Thill. But he has done more than that with this tiny house. When you know someone so young is capable of something like this, it opens the door for others. It allows anyone to look at an idea and not be afraid to tackle it.
“Everyone had to have a big house, and now people have changed and realized it’s not practical,” Thill said to the Des Moines Register. “You can save money, travel the world, and do what you want instead.”
Utilizing The House Wisely
Thill didn’t go through all this work just to prove a point. He spent all those hours and $1,500 for a reason. And once again, his purpose for this house has a certain level of maturity to it. Homework gets done in the tiny house.
Thill only sleeps in it a few nights a week, but that’s sure to change as he gets older and makes a bigger one. “The main purpose is to be my starter home,” he said. “I’m going to save money and expand.”
The Attention He Deserves
The principal at Thill’s school called him into his office one day, the reason unknown to Thill. “I don’t go there very often,” he said. “I’ve never gone there for anything bad.” Thill must have been curious as to why he was being called up.
It turns out; his principal was friends with someone from the local newspaper. Thill got interviewed, and his tiny house ended up making the front page of the paper. Trouble wasn’t waiting for Thill, but recognition was.
Luke Thill / Facebook
Not only was Thill featured on the front page of the local newspaper but he also runs a YouTube channel that has over 32,000 followers. When you combine those two sources of engagement, it only makes sense that he would be invited to speak at the TinyFest Festival, a gathering dedicated to building tiny homes.
It’s also ironic that he had just earned his merit badge for public speaking from Boy Scouts. Thill had some encouraging words for the crowd in attendance that aligned with his inspirational path.
Strengthening His Bond With Dad
Luke Thill / YouTube
This project was an incredible experience for Thill and his whole family. More specifically, Thill and his father got a chance to grow closer together. Thill completed the bulk of the work, but his dad worked closely with him.
“Me and him spent nights and days building it. He was really busy, but he made sure to spend time with me and coached me through the process of building a house. I’m really grateful for a good dad, mom, and a good family.”
Making A Business
Luke Thill / Facebook
It’s clear that this young teen is going places. Building the tiny house was just the tip of the iceberg. Thill has more ideas in that head of his. Branching out to retail was Thill’s next move.
He already had thousands of supporters, so it made perfect sense for him to make merchandise. He now has sweatshirts and T-shirts. It was initially just to help him get exposure, but it isn’t a bad way to help raise more money.
How’s Living In It?
So is the space entirely livable? Not exactly, but it is manageable. Being equipped with electricity isn’t enough. The small fridge would be good for midnight snacks, but that’s about it.
The most important factor this house is missing is plumbing! There is no running water. Thiller couldn’t get that situated, but it’s okay. He was trying to muster up a way to get water in there, but it was too much for him to handle. But the lack of plumbing only inspired him to want to expand.
Sometimes We Might Make A Mistake Or Two
When humans do something for the first time, it’s natural to mess up. Everyone does, and that’s okay. It’s especially acceptable when you are a 13-year-old building a home for the first time!
Thill had some mistakes in the process that he told his subscribers about in his YouTube videos. He explained how the counter he tried to make was a disaster. He also had planned on using a light fixture in the loft that ended up being too big. This mistake caused people to bump their heads when they came in.
This tiny home is ideal for 13-year-olds and their friends. Every day after school, they can go over and not worry about getting in the way of the parents. All young kids need is wifi and a TV.
The only issue with having friends over at Thill’s home is the lack of plumbing. Friends who have to use the restroom must walk to the main house and use his parents’.
The First Night In
After putting so much time and hard work into this, you can imagine how excited Thill was to sleep in his new home. Even after installing the necessary insulation, it was still up in the air if the house was habitable.
In the thick of the winter, Thill chose to spend the first night in his tiny house. It was below freezing, but he was up for the challenge. After that night, he was proud to announce that it was so warm upstairs in the loft, he had to open up a window.
The Next Steps
The first tiny house was a practice run for Thill. He says that he plans on making more efficient tiny houses down the line. An ultimate goal of his is to build one that he can bring along with him when he goes to college.
But before that happens, he is going to make one that is entirely livable. A house that he can live in full-time. The original tiny house is going to be sold to help finance his upcoming projects. The documentation of it will be on his YouTube. Good luck Luke!
Pro: No Mortgage
The price of owning a home is high across the country and those inflated listing prices are incredibility daunting to the average American. At the end of 2018, the U.S. Census reported that the average cost of a house was $362,400.
Tiny houses can range in cost, but the majority of tiny home buyers opt to pay between $30,000 and $40,000. If you do most of the labor yourself, you could keep the cost as low as $10,000. According to Tiny Society, 68% of tiny house owners don’t have a mortgage.
Con: Finding A Place To Park Can Be Tough
Often times, what you don’t see on TV when watching shows on tiny living is where they plan on parking it. They tend to glaze over that aspect, don’t they? In reality, finding the right place to park your tiny house is the most difficult part.
Building codes and zoning regulations that differ by city, county and state determine whether you’ll even come close to parking your home in a desirable area. Tiny Society ranked states from most and least friendly for tiny homes. The worst states for going tiny include Montana, New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Pro: Lower Utility Bill Now And Long-Term
Heating and cooling your home can come at a huge cost. The average apartment in America has a utility bill of $200 per month and the US Department of Energy reported that the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 per year on energy bills.
Instantly saving money on utilities is one of the most gratifying aspects of tiny living. Having a smaller space to heat and cool means keeping your utility bill at a minimum. Lowering your monthly cost of living is always a good strategy for saving money in the long-term.
Con: Tight Spaces
It’s in our nature to think that tiny things are cute (who’s with us on this?). Scrolling through photos of tiny homes on Pinterest, they all look absolutely adorable. But while you’re admiring the tiling in the tiny shower in the tiny bathroom, do you consider what it’s like to actually utilize the space?
You’ll need to consider how much elbow room you require before signing off on a tiny shower. Bumping your hip or knee on something because you don’t have enough space is a problem you won’t want to deal with on a daily basis.
Pro: You Can Move It
Considering a new job in the next county over? Met your soulmate who lives in another state? These life changes aren’t as scary to consider when you know you can take your home with you. Americans report that moving is one of the most stressful things to deal with in life.
Knowing your home, already filled with your belongings, can be moved where you need to go can help relieve this stress. While you never know what life can throw at you, enjoy the peace of mind that home is where you park it.
Con: Tiny Life Can Get Lonely
Living tiny is empowering because it allows you to become more independent. You’re not tied down to a mortgage, a bunch of belongings or relying on another person in order to pay your rent. The downside could be getting lonely, since you won’t have much room for friends, a roommate, or significant other.
Particularly during the colder seasons when the weather calls for staying indoors with a cup of tea, tiny life can feel a bit suffocating and lonely for even the most enthusiastic tiny homeowners.
Pro: Low Maintenance
How many times have you called up a friend to spend time together only to have them say, “I can’t, I’m doing things around the house today.” Aside from utility bills, owning a home is a great amount of responsibility in terms of maintenance and this shouldn’t be downplayed.
Having fewer doors, windows, furniture, cabinets, and generally, anything that might need maintenance means fewer things to fix. This equates to more free time and savings to enjoy life and spend less time on your hands and knees fixing things.
Con: The Toilet Takes Some Getting Used To
Of course, there are reasons not everyone wants to go tiny, and the bathroom situation is often at the top of this list. Like everything else in the house, bathrooms need to be designed to adapt to the smaller space. The toilet gets even more alternative when considering a tiny house on wheels isn’t always connected to plumbing.
Although there are a few options for toilets in tiny homes, they all take a lot of getting used to. They are made for function, not luxury, and many residents report that the look and smell is not for the faint of heart. Overall, you’ll need to realize that your waste doesn’t leave your space like it would in your typical housing situation.
Pro: Spend More Time In Your Community And In Nature
One of the reasons many people find the cost of housing so frustrating is that they don’t spend much time at home anyway! Work, exercising, and socializing with friends are at the top of the list for where we spend our time, and that doesn’t require us to be at home, indoors.
It’s true that when your home is minimally-sized, you have less space to entertain. But on the flip side, you’ll spend more time socializing with your community and enjoying the outdoors.
Con: You Have To Put Things Away Constantly
If you’re the type of person that likes to leave things lying around, tiny living may be incredibly hard to get used to. Anytime you’re done with anything- whether you’re cooking, working, knitting- you have to put everything away.
That’s literally no space for a pile of clothes, dirty dishes, or a project that you work on once a week. Once you’re done using something, stow it away. Otherwise, it will quickly become a cluttered nightmare.
Pro: Some States Embrace Tiny Living
While there are many U.S. states that make it difficult for people looking to go tiny, there are also plenty of states that are embracing the tiny movement. What’s even better is that many of the states that are making it easier to go tiny also have fantastic weather and a high housing cost that many would like to avoid.
The best states for going tiny include Texas, California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Tennessee.
Pro: Simplify Your Lifestyle
Fewer things, less stress. That’s one of the major themes and attractions for many people looking to take the leap to tiny living. Tiny homeowner Melissa of Simple Lionheart Life has this to say about adopting a simpler life with her family:
“The more we have simplified, the less space we need because we have less stuff. And the less space we need, the more it’s become clear to me that I don’t want to spend time and energy taking care of a bigger house we don’t need!”
Con: Becoming a Minimalist Can Be Hard
It’s implied that people who are planning on “going tiny” are going to need to part with many of their possessions in order to fit it all into a smaller space. But actually going through all of your things and coming to the realization that it just won’t fit is hard.
Think of all of the medium-large size things you own that aren’t going to make the cut. Particularly people who enjoy an entertainment center, own musical instruments, or have hobbies like biking and skiing will have a difficult time trying to place all of their gear.
Con: Considering Another Option for Storage
Yep. Your skis, golf clubs and kayak you’re not ready to part with will all need some place to go while you’re living your best tiny life. You might need to consider renting a storage space for your larger items or make a deal with a friend or family member to allow you to store your sporting goods in their garage.
Some tiny homeowners are able to keep these items with them, but only if they consider their gear at the beginning stages of the design process.
Pro: Less Time Spent Cleaning
No one actually enjoys all that time spent cleaning the house, right? After a long day or work, or taking care of kids, tackling that to-do list requires way too much energy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average woman spends a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes each day cleaning around the house.
Out of that time, 29 minutes are spent cleaning the house interior and 15 minutes spent cleaning the kitchen. And let’s be honest, sometimes it takes a lot more time than that. Tiny living eliminates unused spaces that require cleaning.
Con: Banks Might Not Give You a Loan
Tiny house hunting and designing are the exciting aspects of beginning the tiny house lifestyle. But what about the other things on the checklist? Like many aspiring homeowners, tiny house dwellers may require a loan from the bank to get their dream started.
The problem they run into is that not all banks will provide a loan for a tiny house. Most mortgage lenders have a minimum loan amount that will be too high for tiny houses. You can apply for an RV loan instead, but your tiny house must be certified by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association to be considered.
Pro: Everything Is Within Reach
One thing that many tiny homeowners will tell you is that everything in their house has to serve at least two purposes. Stairs are also designed for storage space, tables double as a chalkboard once they’re collapsed to the wall- every element of the house design is well-thought-out.
Unlike the typical American household where your dining room is apart from your living room, tiny homeowners live in a cozy space with easy access to all of their belongings. You’ll never have to worry about walking back and forth trying to find that thing you set down somewhere again.
Pro: More Freedom To Travel
It’s hard to save money when a good chunk of your paycheck is going towards rent or a mortgage. With limited affordable housing throughout the major cities in America, many people have no choice but to make sacrifices in order to pay their housing cost. One of the first things that gets crossed off the list is travel and vacations.
A 2018 survey by Bankrate.com showed that 49% of the people polled were not planning on taking a summer vacation. Those who could afford to travel said they planned to spend $1,000 on a vacation. The money saved by lower utility bills and a realistic price tag on tiny homes can open the door to traveling and taking a well-earned vacation.
Pro: Less Stress
Looking at the bigger picture of tiny living, it offers a lower-stress lifestyle. Decreasing your cost of living and minimizing your living space could mean you won’t have to work as many hours and have fewer square footage to clean and maintain.
Think of the time saved with fewer floors and surfaces to clean. And the peace of mind knowing you’re living situation is stable and affordable? Well, that’s priceless.
Pro: Tiny Houses Are Trending
Tiny houses have been on an upward trend since 2004, and have especially peaked since 2014. So why is this part of the ‘pro’ list of tiny living? Back in 2000, if you told someone you were buying a tiny home, they’d most likely look at you sideways. And although there are plenty of skeptics still out there, awareness of tiny homes and acceptance of this as a viable housing option have grown exponentially.
This is beneficial to tiny homeowners because it increases the likelihood that a community would adopt a tiny house community plan, a landowner would rent a plot out and your resale value looks to be promising. In fact, homes under the 500 square foot range are appreciating twice as fast as the overall market, according to realtor.com.