Zac and Caitlin Hogan were living in Big Lake, Minn., when they decided to downsize from a 2,500-square-foot split-level to a tiny house one-tenth its size.

"We weren't utilizing the space at all," said Zac. "It was a lot of upkeep."

They also felt pinched financially, with more house than they could comfortably afford. They considered downsizing to a smaller house, but they couldn't find a way to do it and significantly reduce their overhead.

After seeing a documentary about tiny houses, they signed up for a workshop in Madison, Wis., and put their house on the market. It sold on their way home.

"We decided God had a plan for us to do a tiny house," said Zac.

They bought a house plan from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. of California for a 180-square-foot home with a 75-square-foot sleeping loft and worked with Josh Battis of JB Home Improvers of Monticello to modify it.

Battis engineered the Hogans' home to maximize space, adding a slide-out bench, a Murphy-style guest bed, and a staircase that doubles as a pantry, with pullout drawers built into the treads. (The house was featured on HGTV's "Tiny House, Big Living.")

Soon after the house was completed, the Hogans moved it to Carson, Nev., to be near family after Zac, a flight paramedic, got a job offer there.

"At first it was an adjustment," Zac admitted. "We moved across the country, plus the challenge of moving into a smaller space."

Cooking in a tiny house can be difficult, they discovered, especially with active small children; the Hogans have two: Finn, 2½, and Piper, 11 months.

"The living room is the kitchen," Zac said, so the simple act of boiling water becomes "a safety concern. We have a lot of crockpot meals."

Living in such close quarters isn't always easy. "It gets tight at times," Zac said. "The nice thing is the weather out here is nice so you can be outside. We go to the park and stretch out."

But the rewards outweigh the difficulties. "It's improved family life and marriage," Zac said of six months in their tiny house. "We've had to talk through things. You can't really close a door and hide from people. It's made us communicate better."

It's also put their family on a stronger financial footing. "The first time, we didn't do it [homeownership] right," Zac said. "We put no money down. Now we're mortgage-free. We're not living at the brink of our finances. We can enjoy life with the kids."