Tiny homes hit the big city

Story highlights

iReporters share stories of finding solace living in less than 500 square feet

Benefits include savings on utilities and mortgage, better quality of life

Small homes makes incursion into big city with New York City program to create micro-units

CNN  — 

Hari and Karl Berzins decided to build a tiny home for their family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to free themselves of the financial burden of owning a large home.

They knew that moving two children, a dog and a cat into a 168-square foot space would be a challenge, though it would also eliminate the need for a mortgage and cut their utility costs.

But they didn’t expect it to completely change their lives, Hari Berzins said.

The savings allowed the 39-year-old mother to scale back her hours working for a nonprofit and spend more time on the family’s 3-acre hillside property in Floyd, Virginia, she said. She now has more time to pursue her passion for writing, gardening, raising chickens and, most importantly, to enjoy her kids. Her husband, a chef, was able to leave a stressful restaurant and take a pay cut to work in a more creative environment.

iReporters share stories of living in small spaces

The perks go beyond saving money or having a smaller environmental footprint, though both are huge benefits, Hari Berzins said. There’s also the intangible delight derived from cooking in a kitchen where everything is within arms’ reach, or eating off the beautiful china set that was locked in a cabinet when they lived in a 1,500-square foot home, she said.

“Living mortgage-free has given us the freedom to make decisions based on what will make us happy, not what we have to do to pay the mortgage,” Berzins said in a CNN iReport.

“The things we have are beautiful, enriching our tiny space. We got rid of so much and kept the beautiful things,” she said. “Freeing ourselves from consumer debt and living mortgage-free has cleared the clutter to help us see what is truly important: our relationships, our happiness, each moment.”