13-Year-Old Built A Tiny House & Hid Something Huge Inside

Luke Thill was just a normal 8th grader in the city of Dubuque, Iowa. So when he told his parents he wanted to build a house, his parents thought it was a great idea, but when they sneaked in and saw what he kept inside, they regretted giving him the green light in the first place…

His motivation

If you think Luke lived in harsh conditions beforehand, you would be wrong. His inspiration was very similar to your everyday muse: late-night YouTube binge-watching! An interesting recommended video caught his eye, and he decided to see what was up.

One by one, he watched all the videos — both instructional videos and documentaries — until he decided to take a look at his resources and time. But what was the real motivation behind this project?

Summer vacation woes

Everybody hates school at a young age, but Luke is no ordinary kid. He loves learning, and the thought of having nothing to do the entire day was appalling to him.

With no intention of locking himself inside the house and playing video games, Luke decided to take his future into his own hands and start building something monumental. But before he ventured out to complete his plan, he had something important to do…

The first obstacle

Without any hesitation, he told his parents, Greg and Angie, about his plans. He also asked them for permission. Luke was always creative and wanted to do different things.

His biggest motivation was having the ability to create something. They noticed that ever since he was a young boy and didn’t hesitate to give him the green light to create his masterpiece. However, there were some rules to abide by…

No messing around

Before he even began the project, Luke’s dad gave him a heads-up: He had to raise the money and build the house on his own. This wasn’t just some regular tough love.

Telling Luke to hustle on his own was meant to teach him an important life lesson about how nothing is given. All that hard work Luke would invest will definitely come in handy later on. This doesn’t mean they weren’t worried…

Always with him

Despite telling Luke to build the whole thing on its own, his dad asked him what kind of materials and equipment he would be using. He wanted to know if he would work with something dangerous.

Greg told him right away that he wants him to be safe first and foremost and that no ambition is worth jeopardizing your own well-being over. Of course, Greg would be there…

An important lesson

Greg promised to be there during the entire process, as he wanted to see how his son would handle the situation. There was a lot to handle — learning where to buy the materials, how to wire a house, how to overcome obstacles and how to be financially responsible.

Now, we all know how much more careful a person is when they’re investing their own money into something. This project would be just the beginning…

More than a house

In order to be able to find his way in life the right way, Luke had to begin early. His dad stressed the fact that many people don’t know anything about living on their own despite being old or wealthy enough to do it.

In a world where everyone focuses on video games and virtual life, it was a great chance for young Luke to learn about real-life problems and accomplishments. How did Luke raise the necessary money?

Starting to get sketchy

To get the money he needed, Luke decided to mow lawns in his neighborhood, start a Kickstarter campaign online and get his hands on some reclaimed material.

Realizing he needed some extra hands to help him, Luke came up with an excellent plan: In order to get someone to help, he did them favors so that they would owe him one. Despite the degree of difficulty, it seems that Luke’s plan was doing a-OK…

Working hard

Some of the favor exchange business he conducted was really smart. He knew that his neighbor is an electrician, so he asked to clean his garage in exchange for some wiring work. Another neighbor of his is a scout leader.

In exchange for a mowed lawn, the man happily agreed to give him a carpet that he could put in the house. Everything was adding up and there was no stopping the motivated young man. How did Thill Sr. react to his son’s endeavors?

Something to behold

For a kid his age, he’s incredibly determined — that’s what everyone online said and Greg couldn’t help but agree. Such a project made Greg realize how ahead of his age his son is. Most boys and girls his age can’t make themselves do homework or study for a test.

Meanwhile, Greg was dabbling in something much more complex, something that would teach him a valuable lesson about life and dealing with unforeseen occurrences. There were times when he was low on cash and had to work even more. Did it stop him?

Smart thinking

Luke said he liked a minimalist approach to his project. He could have built a bigger place without much more effort, but he didn’t want to give in to some lavish desires. There was a lot of recycling involved. His grandma had some siding from her old house and was happy to let him use it.

A friend of his uncle heard about Luke’s project and managed to find him an old door he could use. When ABC News asked him why he didn’t wait, Luke said that he saw all the people struggling with mortgages and didn’t want to be one of them. However, there was more help to come…

Help is on its way

Dave, his uncle’s friend, thought he had some more tricks up his sleeve, so he explored all the options he had. After a day, he returned with some old windows for the house.

Window work is incredibly expensive and Luke would have a hard time earning all the money he needed for that too. Now, those weren’t just some broken windows. They were in excellent condition and simply had to be cleaned a little bit. Luke could use them without much trouble.

Ecology is important

Nowadays, much of the debris that’s polluting our environment comes from construction materials. People throw away wood, windows, floors and everything they don’t need, destroying the nature around them.

Luke was aware of the problem, so he opted to use as much recycled material he could. Obviously, for safety reasons, a lot of the stuff had to be bought new, so he clocked in at 75% recycled materials! For some people, this is impossible, but Luke accomplished it with ease.

In awe of the house’s size

Luke’s house is much bigger than it actually looks. It’s 5 1/2 feet wide and 10 feet long. It also has a loft inside. There is a small deck on which the house is built, so there is no way the house would become unstable if something happens.

A wise handyman, Luke opted for a safe and cheap combination for his siding: half vinyl, half cedar. The house is indeed impressive from the outside, but when you step inside…

Humble but still fancy

When you step inside, you won’t feel crammed at all. The house seemingly fits everything. There is a small kitchen area with a counter included. With shelves stretching across the wall, you can also see a sitting area with a large couch that is next to a modern table.

Luke even decided to mount a TV and computer monitor onto his wall. However, his mother was worried that he might get fined for illegal building by the city authorities. Did he?

Missed it by just a little bit

Illegal building is a serious offense, but the city authorities treated the house as a glorified shed. This wasn’t to undermine Luke’s effort but mostly because of the wooden walls and small size.

Luke thought of it all — he even built an upstairs loft that he made into a sleeping quarter. There is a mattress, a night light and a table next to the mattress. In order to get there, you have to climb a ladder. Luke had many kids from school come over and see the project. How did they react?

Never stopping

The truth is, not all the reactions were positive. Some — most likely spoiled kids — laughed at him and told him they would never live in such a rundown shed.

Those comments came from kids who never had to work for anything or earn money in their lives. Most of his friends supported him and even offered money and help. However, Luke refused and wanted to complete this journey by himself…

Becoming popular

Since he lives in a town of only 58,000 people, news got around fast and young Luke was getting more popular by the day. Whenever he ran into someone on the street, regardless of if they knew him or not, they asked him how the house was coming along.

Then, he thought of a brilliant idea: to create a YouTube channel for everyone to follow his journey to stardom. And that particular channel certainly didn’t go unnoticed…

Alone in this

Despite the popularity of DIY home construction in recent years, the only ones doing it were experienced handymen and construction specialists, using their skill to educate others.

They flashed their skills in instructional videos, but nobody ever did it at such a young age. Luke decided to be the first one and his process was well-documented and recorded. How do you think his peers reacted to such an endeavor?

Starting a trend

Of course, the people saw him as an inspiration — especially because of his age! After he started uploading videos and doing live streams, more and more young people started doing what he did.

They began sending him pictures, recording their own videos and thanking him for the movement he started with his own bare hands. There was no stopping the kid and he was happy for all the others who joined in. Despite the praise, there was some drama involved — particularly at school…

What could be wrong?

There was still work to be done when school was underway, so he had to balance his mandatory classes, extracurricular activities and his building business.

Everything was going well and he seemed to be balancing his obligations, but all of a sudden, he heard, “Luke Thill to report to the principal’s office immediately!” Obviously, this scared him, but he couldn’t believe what was going to happen when he headed down to the chief…

Unexpected development

Luke couldn’t recall what he did wrong. He was always a well-behaved student who worked hard and had good grades. Why would the principal want to see him all of a sudden?

It didn’t make sense, but he got an answer soon: The principal had been following his story and he had a reporter friend who wanted to interview him. It must have been amazing to have the media chase you around for a story at 13! Despite this, what was Luke’s most important lesson?

No reason to stop

When asked that question, Luke said, “I learned how never to give up and accept disappointment as part of the process.”

This is a lesson that some people don’t learn even at an old age, making young Luke an even more astonishing individual compared to both his peers and those older than him. There were numerous when he failed to complete a task on his first try. But that’s OK! What was his biggest fail?

A lesson, not a defeat

One time, Luke tried to mix shards of colored glass with a lacquer mixture to make his countertop even more spectacular. Unfortunately, everything spilled over.

However, Luke immediately started thinking about what he could do. In an instant, the lacquer created a bond which held the counter right to a wall. He attached a normal surface to the messed-up one for a few extra inches of storage space. Not bad, Luke!

An independent man

Luke wants to learn everything about life, not just woodworking and construction. He wants to become a good chef, but he’s still in the beginning stages of his mission.

As a theme for one of his videos, he recorded himself preparing his first meal in his new home. It got a lot of attention, even though it was just eggs on a stove. In fact, it went so well that Luke got an unlikely invitation that he couldn’t resist…

Honorary guest

Every year in Colfax, Iowa, there is a tiny home festival. People from all around the country trade ideas, experiences and creations all connected to DIY small homes.

They were so impressed with the work of young Luke that they sent him an honorary invitation to attend. Aside from this, they asked him to give a speech to all the people present. Needless to say, the young man took the challenge and delivered a speech to behold. Everyone was impressed. However, one small problem was on Luke’s mind…

One thing missing

Since Luke was nearing the end of his project, he now had a place to eat, sleep and relax in. The one thing bugging him was the fact that he didn’t have a toilet.

Because the house was in the backyard, it would cost a whole lot of money to install plumbing — not to mention the delicate work needed to do something like that in a small home. How do you think the end of the project worked out?

A house worthy of a king!

Luke was more than happy he had his own place now. Even though he doesn’t have a bathroom, he sleeps there almost every night, studies there and invites his friends to watch TV and have fun.

It may have taken a year, but keep in mind that he had school all this time and there was work, learning and much more involved. A year is actually a short period of time for such a monumental construction. With every day, more and more people started to notice…

Hangouts at his place

While the house may be small, it has one big advantage: a giant backyard. Even though he shares it with his parents, he doesn’t mind and is proud of the fact that he owns a home at the age of 13.

Not many kids can say that, and he is glad he took the challenge and beat the odds. As he had completed his place, his phone started blowing up from many unlikely callers…

Getting noticed

First, it was the Des Moines Register and Telegraph Herald. Both made Luke their front-page story! He couldn’t believe it when he went to the local shop only to see his face plastered all over the newspapers around him.

The people at the store gave him a round of applause when they recognized him. He was basically a hometown hero. Next, someone else called him, and he couldn’t believe what he was hearing…

Why hello!

The representatives of Good Morning America heard of the story and wanted to congratulate him. Afterward, they asked if they could come over and see the house for themselves.

As the camera crew rolled in, he couldn’t believe his eyes or even fathom what was going on. He even gave an interview to mark the entire occasion. The calls still didn’t stop and the next one he received would completely blow him away, as it came from the last person he expected…

Meeting his idols

Derek Diedricksen, a man whom Luke idolized, called him and even asked if he could come to visit him and his creation. If you haven’t heard of Derek, he’s a renowned designer, author and builder of small homes.

He is the one who started the whole trend of encouraging people to make better use of their space and resources. It was still surreal to think about it. Just a year ago, Luke was bored on summer vacation when he decided to step into the whole thing like he wanted to. Luke’s splash also influenced people nearby…

Family ties

After Luke completed his project, his brother Cole got interested in the building business and didn’t want to hesitate with his plans. Unlike with Luke’s home, his wish was to build a camper — a teardrop camper to be precise.

As he loved traveling and wanted to see the whole country, this was his dream come true. He also earned his own money and shared the process on YouTube. It must have been awesome for him to have a knowledgeable brother to give him a hand in the process. The “disease” spread even more…

A noble man

If there is anything that shows us how wonderful of a human being Luke is, it’s definitely the fact that he uses his YouTube channel to showcase other people’s work. As of now, Luke has a whopping 43,000 subscribers on his channel.

It’s a massive number for almost anyone, and he refuses to stop promoting other people’s work. Among the projects featured is his mom’s renovation of an old camper, which she had always wanted to do. But were there any other motives as to why Luke began his project?

Everybody needs some alone time

Laughing, Luke admits that one of the reasons he needed his place was because his house is always full and he lives to be alone. He also has a twin brother with whom he is incredibly close, but he gets on Luke’s nerves sometimes.

It’s almost unfathomable to see such a young boy be so mature when it comes to handling life and looking at things in general. We can’t blame him for all the hard work he put into his dream, but what was the actual cost of the project?

No small amount

When counting the expenses, Luke gave an estimate of $1,500, which is a lot of money for one 13-year-old to earn, invest and keep.

Being honest, he tells us that it was more like $1,200, but he didn’t show any signs of hesitation when it came to buying quality materials, as faulty wiring and other things could have really, really bad consequences. He rounded up the number “in case he forgot anything.” On how Luke coped with all the fame…

A nobler goal

Luke’s goal was never to amass online fame or be a superstar. He merely wanted to make life easier for kids his age and motivate everyone into doing something with their lives.

His goal was primarily to show other young people that they can live on their own, with just a little bit of smart thinking and hustle. No big money or magic is needed! What are his next thoughts? Does he have any creations up for a reveal?

An incessant young mind

Luke initially thought of building a bigger house right away, but he subsequently decided it would be best for him to wait a little bit longer.

His long-term goal is to expand, build a slightly bigger house and then finally a camper to appease all his needs. It’s certainly a project that requires more time, effort and planning, but hey, he’s only 13 and there is a lot of room for growth. If he has one, what could be his final building goal?

Not impossible

Aside from all the ideas he has, Luke wants to focus on one sole goal in his life: building a real, brick-walled house for himself to live in. He intends to use the same basic methods he did with his tiny structure, but on a larger scale and with sturdier materials.

When he gets a real job and starts earning north of six figures a year, he’ll have all the time he needs to make his plans into reality. Still, this first experience rubbed off on him in a significant way…

Taking chances

What Luke really values from the whole journey was the chance to bond with his dad. They cooperated and worked side by side to make the whole thing work. It’s certainly a unique chance to learn from his old man about some of the things he’ll most certainly need later in life.

Greg Thill is always busy with his job and obligations, but he made sure to leave everything aside and commit to helping his beloved son. What an amazing duo. That quality time changed Luke’s way of looking at life in one crucial sense…

Thinking ahead

Luke learned that having a big house is nothing to be proud of — it’s impractical, difficult and expensive. He said he would prefer to stay in a smaller house or apartment and save all the money he can in order to travel the world and experience different cultures and mentalities.

There is just no point in staying locked in your fancy villa and having no money to do anything else in life. It just doesn’t make sense, that’s for sure. Some people who have looked up to Luke have taken the movement a bit too far…

Downsizing is an understatement

When she watched Luke’s videos, Renee McLaughlin got inspired and realized that her own 3,300-square-foot home was too much for her needs. So, she did the logical thing: She sold it. Before she went ahead with the sale, she had her own goal of creating a small house for her needs.

She also realized that we spend too much time investing, cleaning and organizing our houses. It’s time to downsize and focus on what’s really important — not just material possessions. She also used a lot of recycled materials and wanted to save nature. She got immersed in the culture as well…

A new trend

In this day and age, tiny homes are making a breakthrough and people love this concept. It doesn’t only save time and money, but it’s also incredibly immersing.

Instead of hiring builders, interior designers, landscape artists and so on, you get to dive into every one of these professions and make important decisions solely on your own, which many people are unable to. It’s a great way of amassing energy and knowledge for later life. There is one big advantage to Renee’s house…

Freedom is priceless

There were certainly people who laughed at her, but she will have the last laugh because she owns every single piece of her place and isn’t a slave to mortgages, loans or anything that has to do with putting your own property in other people’s hands.

Her creations and many others inspire more and more people around the world and show us that tiny homes are not just about being economical. They can be stylish as well!

Realizing what’s important

When you’re in the process of downgrading in terms of size, your eyes begin to open. That’s precisely what happened to Renee. She suddenly started feeling free and without burden in the shape of clothes, cutlery and furniture.

Shortly after, she donated all the things she didn’t need to charity, but she had one confession: It was difficult to get rid of all her clothes and shoes. She may be a girl, but she is a simple girl, and we applaud her for it!

Limitations are a bummer

Unfortunately, building a small home doesn’t come without obstacles. Usually, every state has its laws concerning the permitted size of a building made for living purposes.

In Des Moines, Iowa, for example, there is a law that says Luke’s house is too narrow for it to be considered a building, but they gave him a pass. Surely, it would be a big scandal if they made a boy tear down his creation just because of some stupid laws. Luke is still part of a bigger wave…

Big changes

The small house movement is significant because it’s putting an end to consumerism one day at a time. We have become so obsessed with buying new things and amassing wealth.

Having a tiny house gives you all the necessities, but nothing more than you actually need. There have been many cases of people buying expensive houses but then having a change of heart and flipping them to live in a tiny one. Everyone can change, and that’s the beauty of life.

Still in its infancy

The tiny home movement is still taking its baby steps, but there are a lot of promising things to be done. Out of 1.5 million listed houses in the U.S., there are only about 3,000 tiny homes (surface of less than 500 square feet).

This is an amazing thing, as the internet and media are promoting a culture that isn’t only fun and immersive but can yield so many good things for our environment and society. There is also one excellent thing about building your own tiny home…

Free of expenses

Everybody knows how hard it is to pay a mortgage off. It can financially cripple several generations before it’s finally paid off. Therefore, you can say that owning a tiny home is a blessing.

On average, they cost $23,000, but that price can come down if you use recycled materials. All in all, having a small home will allow you to live free and without any extra expenses that might prevent you from fulfilling other dreams. There is a lot we can do to help the movement gain traction…

Depending on us

The only way we can help the movement grow is by doing something — and there is a lot to do. We should support young heroes like Luke, give press to creators like him instead of pop stars, talk to our friends and family about it and much more.

Every revolution starts with one person but ends with everybody just because that one person decided to invest a serious amount of effort to implement a change. If we want to keep our planet clean and our wallets full, we should choose tiny homes as our way of living!

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