We've spent more than two years traveling the US in a tiny house here are 7 things people don't realize about tiny homes

Get the Full StoryChristian Parsons Trulia

Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons built a 130-square-foot tiny home on wheels in 2015.

Since then, they've been traveling across the country living in different tiny home communities.

These communities offer a minimalist and community-based lifestyle.

Because "living rooms" aren't large, most of life happens around a shared fire pit outside.

Communal meals are common, and your neighbors become your family.

A few years ago, almost no one had even heard of a tiny house. But now? Instagram-ready photos of them are everywhere, millions watch shows about them and tens of thousands attend events to get a peek inside.

But these mini homes are more than just eye candy. Across the nation, more than a dozen cities have become officially tiny-home friendly and 50-plus communities of tiny homes have cropped up everything from intimate backyard co-ops to full-on urban developments.

The tiny-house life has developed into a legit lifestyle choice for people who want to spend more time on their passions than on making mortgage payments.

We should know. After building our 130-square-foot tiny home on wheels in 2015, we headed out on our Tiny House Expedition, a two-and-a-half-year road trip to work on a documentary and community-education project about the tiny home movement.

Becoming temporary residents of so many of these tight-knit mini-neighborhoods along the way has been a crash course in what it s like to live in a tiny house community. Paring down your shoe collection is really just the start. It s a total rethink of daily life and what it means to be a neighbor.1. Everyone gets fed.

Christian Parsons Trulia

How often do you organize a potluck with your neighbors? In tiny-house communities, communal meals are not just for the 4th of July they're business as usual. Tiny-house living has a strong culture of cooperation and connecting with neighbors, and shared meals are often a part of the weekly calendar.

Recently, we were cooking a big pot of chili at a temporary tiny-home community we'd formed outside Fort Worth, Texas, when we discovered we were missing peppers, onions and cornbread! No problem. After a quick pow-wow at the campfire with our neighbors, the ingredients were found to finish up a batch of chili and fixings big enough to share with all. This "Hey, can I borrow a cup of sugar" culture is alive and well among the tiny-house crowd.

Even those disinclined to cook get in on the potluck culture. At Llamalopolis, a cluster of tiny homes and Airstreams in downtown Las Vegas, neighbors use Slack to send out impromptu food announcements like "I have dumplings to share!" and "I just ordered pizza; come have a slice!"

2. You'll get to know your neighbors well really well.

Christian Parsons Trulia

Tiny community life is intimate. Interactions with your neighbors are not a once-in-awhile wave across the street. They are daily and up close. It might be saying hello as you come out your front door in your pajamas, or a chat as you carry groceries through the community's pedestrian-only entrance. The beauty of these "collisions," as Llamalopolis founder Tony Hsieh put it to us during our two-week stay at his Las Vegas community, is that they tend to result in a welcoming atmosphere and more shared experiences. "And for me," he added, "experiences are more meaningful than stuff."

In a tiny-house community, you've got a built-in support group right there people who are ready to pick you up when you've had a bad day, give you a shoulder to cry on by the fire, or just binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix with you.

But the high level of cooperation required by this life can be intense, too, and if personalities don't mesh the vibe of the community can become toxic. Austin LiveWork is one unfortunate example of what can happen when the chemistry is off. In this tiny home community near Austin, Texas, several residents frequently butted heads with the founder over the community's vision and who was responsible for which maintenance duties. Eventually, someone filed a code violation report, and the community was shut down this past summer.

3. There s always room for one more pet.

Christian Parsons Trulia

It may seem counter-intuitive given how ruthless tiny house dwellers have to be about, say, how many pairs of jeans they can keep. But most of them find a way to make room for pets. Every community we've visited has dogs and cats and we've also met pet chickens, goats, horses, and alpacas. Open roaming space and designated animal areas are to a tiny home community what a gym might be to a city apartment building a must-have amenity and a place to gather.

Often, pets are free to roam the grounds, a joyful sight for pet lovers with seriously squashed indoor play space. The dogs who live at Llamalopolis in Las Vegas have become used to the alpacas that have the run of the place, but I never quite adjusted. I could never tell whether we were cool or at odds especially when one of the alpacas nudged my hat and I whipped my head around to find myself nose to nose with a creature known to spit.

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