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Floyd family living debt free in 'tiny house'

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FLOYD COUNTY - When Karl Berzins came across a website for tiny homes, he went to his wife Hari with the idea. "Honey, we can do this," he recalled saying.

Hari says the idea made sense. "We've done a lot of crazy things so it wasn't unusual for him to have an idea that was different," she said.

Hari and her family would be making a commitment some families would likely never consider. She and her husband and their two children, ages 9 and 11 would move into a less than 400-square foot home. Karl would build it himself. "I knew we could do it and I liked the idea of having a space that's well built, well insulated that makes it through very cold winters just fine," she said.

It took Karl 10 months to build. Three years later, they're still put, living simply and debt free.

The Berzins' tiny house is one of a handful of homes and a farm community of tiny homes in Floyd. The construction of tiny houses is one SustainFloyd calls a social movement in which families are downsizing their living spaces. "The typical American home has grown to 2600- square- feet; the small or tiny house is less than 400-square-feet. Tiny houses come in all styles, but they focus on smaller spaces and simplified living. Some owners say a tiny mortgage frees up time for family and other pursuits."

The Berzins say living outdoors is now a bigger part of their life and they're now part of nature in a way they never were before. "It's the hardest thing and it's the most wonderful thing because we've learned to live with nature, with the patterns of the weather and the seasons. So like animals, when it's warm out, we're out. When it's fall, we're gathering food and bringing it in."

Perhaps the biggest challenging of their downsize is the lack of a bathtub in their tiny space, "We always say we miss having a bathtub," said Karl. "That's something we didn't think about." It's something they'd recommend people contemplating tiny living plan into the design of their space. But living with less, they say, has brought them so much more.

The idea behind leaving their bigger former home was to save money to build what they call a "mortgage free homestead."

"We're coming to a place where we're looking for more, like there's go to be more," Hari explained. "It's interesting because more means less. When we shrink ourselves into a space we really can't believe we can live in, our world opens up."

The Berzins say it's not necessarily about moving into a 400-square foot space as it is about having a home that is right sized for the individual or family and cutting out the excess to realize what you're spending your money on. Hari says in doing so, they realized what they spent their money on wasn't what they valued. "Not everybody is going to move into a tiny house and that's fine. It's about finding exactly what do you need and designing your life and your home to fit you like a glove so that your life and your home is an example of who you are and that's just an amazing experience."

Karl, who built their home and is now helping others do the same, says he and Hari, a kindergarten teacher at Blue Mountain School, don't have to work as much as they use to when they had a larger house and bigger mortgage. He says he wants people to realize they have other options. "I don't have to rent something. I don't have to go in debt. I don't have to be scrambling all the time."

When the Berzins moved into their home, Hari started a blog to share the story of living in the space with their families. It's now used to help a growing community of people interested in everything from spending to self care, downsizing, land selection to site selection and design. They couple offers a e-course to help guide people to their way of living.

The Berzins are also partnering with SustainFloyd and other tiny house homeowners for a Tiny House Tour May 17th. The self-guided driving tour of tiny houses, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Tickets, $15, are limited. They can be purchased online or in advance at the Floyd Country Store.

The new documentary, "TINY: A Story About Living Small," will be screened following the tour at the Floyd Country Store at 6:30 p.m.. Film tickets will be sold at the door, starting at 6 p.m..

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