I moved from DC to a 400-square-foot tiny home near Tampa. I have more space and am saving money, so I don’t regret it.

I moved from DC to a 400-square-foot tiny home near Tampa. I have more space and am saving money, so I don't regret it.

Finding Freedom and Space: A Tiny Home Story


Imagine feeling like you have more space in a 396-square-foot home compared to a 650-square-foot apartment. That’s the reality for Stefanie Mortenson, a 53-year-old HR director who made the courageous decision to leave behind her bustling life in Virginia and embark on a new adventure in a tiny home near Tampa, Florida.

In an interview with Mortenson, she shared her journey of embracing minimalism and finding happiness in a tiny home community. Her story sheds light on the changing priorities many individuals have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Escaping the Chaos

“My priorities changed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mortenson began. Having spent almost 25 years in Virginia and working at the US Senate Federal Credit Union, Mortenson was ready for a new lifestyle. The high cost of living and constant noise in the city were becoming overwhelming. “I got tired of the traffic. I got tired of hearing my neighbors all the time. I was doing everything not to work from home even though I could, just because it was too noisy,” Mortenson explained.

Inspired by the concept of minimalism, Mortenson’s search for a simpler life led her to the tiny home movement. “These tiny homes were very intriguing,” she mused. Determined to find her coastal sanctuary, Mortenson stumbled upon Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks community after a thorough internet search.

Embracing Minimalism

Attracted by the idea of downsizing, Mortenson was captivated by the 396-square-foot tiny homes available in The Oaks community. After watching a video showcasing the units, she wasted no time in making her purchase. “I literally got up at 5 a.m. At around 6 or 7 a.m., it opened and I bought my house based on a video of the unit,” Mortenson shared.

Eager to experience her new space firsthand, Mortenson attended an open house shortly after her purchase. She enthusiastically measured every nook and cranny of her future abode, two lofts included. While initially concerned about the low ceiling height in one of the lofts, she quickly realized it would primarily serve as her sleeping quarters. Ultimately, she found the space to be perfectly suitable as an office loft and bedroom loft.

Letting Go and Finding Freedom

Upon moving into her tiny home in May, Mortenson found herself surrounded by belongings that no longer fit her new lifestyle. She decided to gradually part ways with her excess belongings, embracing the freedom that comes with a simpler existence. “I am starting anew in a lot of ways, and I’ve had to be more creative,” Mortenson expressed. To optimize her space, she carefully chose furniture with dual purposes, such as a couch with built-in storage.

Apart from the practical advantages, Mortenson quickly discovered the unique beauty of her new community. The Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks community is far from a traditional mobile home park. The upscale ambiance and meticulously designed tiny homes offer a sense of grandeur not typically associated with this style of living. Mortenson remarked, “The homes look higher-end than some of the mobile homes I’ve seen.”

Mortenson also revels in the abundance of natural light that fills her tiny home. In stark contrast to her old Virginia apartment, which lacked sufficient windows, Mortenson now enjoys picturesque views of the park adorned with trees and Spanish moss. This connection with nature adds to the overall charm of her new lifestyle.

Financial Liberation

Living in a tiny home not only brings a sense of freedom but can also lead to significant financial benefits. In Mortenson’s case, she has already noticed a considerable reduction in her electric bills. “This unit is really electricity efficient: My second electric bill was probably half of what I used to pay at my Virginia apartment,” Mortenson beamed.

With the savings and the affordable cost of her tiny home, Mortenson expects to have her home paid off before retirement—a prospect that fills her with security and reassurance for the future.

A New Beginning

Leaving behind her old life in Virginia, Mortenson has embraced the tiny home lifestyle with open arms. While she misses the people she left behind, the thought of returning to Virginia is far from her mind. Mortenson envisions a long and content life in her tiny home community, with dreams of retiring in the very place that has brought her newfound happiness.

In the midst of a pandemic and a world filled with uncertainty, Mortenson’s story serves as a reminder that sometimes, the path to peace and contentment lies in simplicity and embracing change.

Disclaimer: The content written in this article is based on an interview with Stefanie Mortenson and has been edited for length and clarity. Images courtesy of Escape Tampa Bay Village’s The Oaks community by Roy Hawkes.