Along the state line of Alabama and Georgia atop Lookout Mountain, neighborhoods of tiny homes sprinkle the vast mountainside. People have come from all over the country to move into these small houses, all of them bringing their own reasons for downsizing and searching for a change of pace. While each of these tiny home residents has their own unique story, a common theme among them is their love for the outdoors, a simpler life and an appreciation for experiences over material things.
For her birthday in March of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cyndi Yeakle told her husband, Mike, that she wanted to spend the day looking at tiny houses. Less than two months later, they found themselves moving into their own tiny home in Cloudland, Georgia. Many of her friends believed that Yeakle, who spent her whole life in Atlanta, would not be able to make this transition; however, she described it as being natural.
“I don’t think either one of us has had a single regret about anything. It’s all better and easier than we expected,” Yeakle said.
COVID-19 shut down the family business, a wholesale photo lab, in 2020, and after running it for 24 years, there was nothing holding them back from leaving Atlanta. “I never envisioned living here. I never thought too much about my retirement,I thought I would probably work forever, until I couldn’t work. Our tiny house made something possible that I thought was impossible.”
Growing up in Florida, Jan Finn was ready to get out of the cold, snowy weather in Maine. She and her husband, Rich, were weary of caring and paying for a large house; it was time to declutter and downsize. “The simplistic life really does appeal to me,” Finn said.
After first hearing about tiny houses on YouTube, Finn spent time researching and learning more about different communities of tiny houses. She discovered a community in Lyerly, Georgia that had three-quarter-acre lots in the woods. They moved to one of these lots on May 5, 2023. The Finn’s managed to fit all of the things needed into one car and made the long drive from Maine.
While going to the grocery store is considered an outing as it is no longer within a 15- minute drive of their home, the minimalist lifestyle suits them well. “As far as a schedule, I don’t have one.”
Alice Stevens and her sister Ellen Serracino have always been close. “We’ve talked for a long time about how if we weren’t married and we were older, then we would at least want to live close to each other.”
Steven’s neighbor in Rome, Georgia asked her if she would like to spend a night in her tiny home and Stevens had no interest at all. However, Serracino had been talking to her sister about tiny houses for a while so Stevens made a plan to surprise her for her birthday by staying in one. “You could live in that tiny home and I could live in this tiny home,” Stevens said to her sister after seeing the tiny house and the community it was in.
This comment started it all, and the sisters sold their homes in Rome and Asheville, North Carolina. Although they were not able to purchase tiny houses next to each other, they only live 20 minutes apart and would not change a thing.
Being a well-established lawyer in downtown Atlanta for over 10 years, Jody Rhodes wanted a second home to put on her property. After looking at tiny houses and their neighborhoods, she fell in love with the community that already existed and decided to purchase her own tiny home in Cloudland, Georgia. What was meant to be her weekend house quickly became where she spent the majority of her time.
“When COVID-19 hit and everything closed, the big city just felt sort of suffocating. So it was really great to have an escape in the woods and I found myself working remote from my tiny house more often than in Atlanta,” Rhodes shared.
It became challenging having two houses, and constantly traveling back and forth. Realizing that she could live with a lot less, Rhodes sold her house in Atlanta and moved into her tiny house full-time in March of 2022.
“It was really hard moving from Atlanta where I had a lot of friends in a close proximity to then live in the woods. There was a big fear of the unknown when leaving Atlanta and moving to a place where I didn’t know anyone,” Rhodes explained.
“I think I made the absolute right decision. Many people fall in love with the idea of a simple life, but then the reality of a tiny house life can be a hard adjustment for some people. It just makes sense for my lifestyle.”
The Schippers were getting closer to retirement and their son was getting ready to go to college, so they decided they no longer needed their large house in Delaware.
Ready to leave the I-95 corridor, Schipper was wanting to move back to the mountains of Colorado where he grew up. However, his wife, Heather, really loved the state of Georgia. Compromising, they moved to the mountains of northwest Georgia.
They visited a tiny house community in these mountains in 2017, but as there was no cell service in this location at the time, they could not commit to moving. But once cell service was available, they quickly bought land and a tiny house and moved in July of 2020.
Moving to a house substantially smaller than the one they left required the Schippers to part with many belongings. “It’s just stuff. We kept the stuff we wanted and we took pictures of the rest so now we have a digital library of all of those things. I kept my boy scout uniform for over 50 years but I knew I wouldn’t need it. So I took a picture of it and parted with it,” Schipper said.
Schipper loves the seclusion from the big city as well as the sense of community among their tiny house neighborhood. The couple’s son, Josh, visited so frequently and enjoyed his visits so much that he eventually purchased his own tiny house in the same neighborhood as his parents.
“Tiny living is not for everybody. A lot of people have moved here and haven’t stayed a year. They don’t anticipate the isolation or the actual size and lack of space. But for Heather and me it’s perfect and we absolutely love it. If it can be, it will be our forever home,” Schipper said.