How Renee McLaughlin Went From a 5 Bedroom Home To Fully Living The Tiny Life
For TinyFest CEO and founder, Renee McLaughlin, the idea of “Going Tiny” is more than just buying and moving into a moveable home. It’s about sustainability, autonomy, flexibility, and...freedom. For some it’s about financial freedom, for others freedom of mobility, and freedom from stuff and stress. And it’s about having fun!
TinyFest began as the brainchild of McLaughlin, a native of Iowa, who also spent time living in Alaska & Oregon. She has worked as a photographer, specializing in sports photography and portraiture, and later managed a small historic hotel in Ketchikan, Alaska and a winery back in Iowa.
After living and maintaining a 3300 square foot, 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house - she decided in 2015 to sell it all (her youngest daughter was heading to college). She realized it was “Her Time” to do what she wanted - and she wanted a Tiny House!
She attended the “Build Small, Live Large” conference in Oregon and a workshop by tiny house pioneer Dee Williams, and also watched early shows like “Tiny House Giant Journey” on YouTube and soon after bought her first tiny home on wheels. It was 87 square feet, which she nicknamed “Big R.”
She started looking to attend Tiny House events. “One of the first things I did after buying my first tiny home was go to the National Tiny House Jamboree. I went as a vendor, actually, and sold t-shirts there that said ‘Tiny On!’ Had a blast - and then went on to the Florida Tiny House Festival.
I kept thinking, “We need to have more of these festivals, because it gives people a great way to experience tiny living, and to ask questions, and see things in person.”
Helping Others Realize And Actualize The Benefits Of Tiny Living
She found there were many reasons why people wanted to attend TinyFests and own their own tiny home. One reason, she laughs, was so “they didn’t have to spend so much time cleaning their house!”
“I think we’ve reached a threshold where this ‘stuff’ is running our lives. We spend all our time working to buy it, clean it and organize it,” said McLaughlin, 48. “It’s not making us happy.”“If there is one thing that Covid has taught us, it is how we can start focusing on the things that are important to us: The people in our lives. The experiences that we want to have. Also, our surroundings and nature and how we are treating this precious world we live in.”
When you begin looking at the different financial situations that people faced during COVID, it created a kind of double-check. ‘Is this really what I want? Or is it just the path I feel like I'm supposed to take: go to college, get married, have kids, and buy a big house? Alternative housing really starts opening your mind to other options - it reaches into other parts of your life as well.”
Mostly, McLaughlin loves the fact that people really have fun when they visit TinyFest. People find themselves with other open minded tiny home enthusiasts, eager to share their experiences and knowledge with people new to tiny living.
When they enter a tiny home for the first time, event goers will often say, “Wow - it’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be!” And better yet, “I think I can do this!”
That is why McLaughlin decided to create TinyFest Midwest, featuring fellow Iowan and ‘The Godfather of Tiny Houses,’ Jay Shafer. She then branched out to TinyFest California before creating TinyFest NorthWest and now offering the first ever TinyFest Texas, in Austin.
TinyFest Events has grown to encompass over 60 tiny homes at a single festival; including vans and school bus conversions (“skoolies”), shipping container homes and tiny houses on wheels; dozens of vendors, builders and designers; and over 13,000 visitors from around the world, with attendance growing every year.
With multiple stages and many types of vendors and entertainment, each TinyFest event is designed to inform and inspire people as they travel their path to tiny living.
We look forward to seeing you there, and hope you enjoy. Tiny On!