Tiny House Living: No really, for real

I recently ran across a link entitled, This Thrifty Family Of Four Makes The Most Of A One-Bedroom Home. This Is GENIUS! 

Genius, you say!

Since I’m also a family of (sometimes) four living in a home which is in fact 22 square feet smaller than the home featured, I had to click the clickbait. Besides, the article’s title implied that families living in tiny homes are clever and frugal. I’m not actually either of these things to a remarkable degree, but I enjoy digital media which allows me to mentally associate myself with people who are, so I was eager to read.

Ultimately, the article disappointingly failed to revolutionize or reflect my own TTH life, which is always the case with these things. To inject a dose of reality into the whole Tiny Tiny House cultural zeitgeist, allow me introduce you to the TTH Mythology episode of this blog. TTH Myths: Fact or Fiction? You’ll never believe how this witty and devastatingly attractive couple lives with three dogs, two stepkids, and several spiders in their tiny tiny house!

‘Tiny Living’ articles seem very popular lately, and are generally very favorable towards living small. They praise individuality, thriftiness, and environmentalism; things we should all strive to achieve (or at least pretend we want to achieve). The crop of Tiny Living articles and documentaries lately is an interesting phenomenon, considering that modern home-building trends reflect a consumer desire for large single-family homes on tiny lots. But the cultural backlash against materialism, stuff, and suburbs isn’t something I’ll get into here, because you’re pretty much only reading this blog for amusing chicken anecdotes and the hope that I might fall into another creek.

So, what does the internet tell us about tiny houses? And how much of that is true?

1. Anyone can live in a tiny house, for super cheap!

One of the main perks of tiny houses, as described by the all knowing gods of the internet, is that it’s inexpensive. People start with shipping containers or shacks, and through inscrutable magic, come out with something that looks like one of those display rooms in Ikea with the fake books and the ‘please don’t actually use this toilet’ bathroom. This is definitely worth further investigation, and if you read the articles closely, you’ll often find information as in the one above: “Interior designer Jessica Helgerson and her husband, architect Yianni Doulis, live in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 540-square-foot home…”

Did you catch that? These people are an interior designer and an architect. Many couples featured in tiny living articles have similar occupations, and are in possession of unique skills and training which enables them to build, remodel, design, and organize to a degree difficult for normal people to match. Us, we’re normal people. We are not architects, we are a vet tech and a telecom shepherd. Josh can do most household repairs with an impressive array of cordless drill attachments and four letter words, and I apply the panacea of cable ties and Leatherman multi tool to all home repair or construction regardless of scale or dysfunction. We definitely were better off acquiring our tiny house, however, rather than crafting it from the ground up out of milk crates and sheet metal. And cable ties.

It’s easy to clean and cheap to heat, that much is very true. But would it have been cheap and easy to buy land and build a tiny palace from scratch? Not for us, not at this point in our lives.

2. It’s totally possible and awesome to raise your kids in a tiny house!

This is probably my chief complaint with tiny house articles. None of them ever offer any useful familial tips, which I would actually be interested in. I don’t even read the articles that say this couple lives in a tiny space, because of course they do. It’s not difficult at all to live with another adult in a tiny space, provided that both of you have decent communication patterns and similar slob-tolerance levels. Josh and I will have nothing to argue about at all, once he realizes that squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube is a sign of depraved character and moral bankruptcy.

Kids, however, kids are hard. When tiny house articles do describe kids, they are almost always very young children. Even the Thrifty Genius article linked above allows, “we know the clock is ticking when it comes to our kids sharing a bedroom.” I have never seen a tiny house article describing a family with teens or pre-teens, because I suspect most families find the shared space and lack of privacy untenable after a certain point.

The other thing you might notice about tiny house articles with kids is that the kids are shown happily frolicking in the beautiful outdoors, as many tiny homes are cozily nestled into perfect, loving communion with nature. Photos of children in sundresses and gardens abound. There is a reason for this. When the weather is nice, keeping kids in your tiny home is easy, because you can in fact throw them out of your tiny home. You can watch them have a nerf dart war in the yard, and then a different war over who lost the nerf darts, all from the comfort of your tiny windows, congratulating yourself on the encouragement of creative outdoor play while ignoring the rising wails of deep injustice from outside the house. But the weather isn’t always nice, and it gets dark early in winter. A tiny house is a challenge when you don’t have a lot of room to store toys and the kids don’t have a lot of space to get away from each other. We meet this challenge with housework, art projects, and slightly more Netflix than would be approved of by Mommy blogs, but just once, it’d be nice to see another tiny house owner reflecting that struggle honestly.

3. Everything you could ever want or need will actually fit into a tiny house!

This is sort of true, and sort of not true. This particular point goes hand in hand with the ingenuity thing. “They’ve certainly figured out,” crows the Thrifty Genius article, “that you don’t need a ton of space OR a ton of stuff to have the American dream home!”

This is absolutely correct. However, I guarantee that the Thrifty Geniuses have exactly as much stuff as they can pack into the built-in shelving of their 540 attractive Scandinavian square feet, and also have occasional distress over the acquisition of desired objects there is no room for. There is no getting around the fact that modern American society does involve the ownership of a certain amount of things, and things must be stored. But the benefit of having little space is that you choose more wisely among all those potential artifacts you might own, and you store all the things more creatively. If we don’t love it, need it, or use it, we can’t and don’t keep it. There is pride and satisfaction to be found in a home full of objects you know and use all the time. An added plus is that if something goes missing, there are actually very few places it could be!

All that being said, some aspects of stuff management are still a pain in the ass. When we moved in, every piece of furniture was selected for how many inches it would take up, not the style or best price. Our washer/dryer unit is horrible, eats our clothes, and makes noises like what might happen if you put a Fiat into a wood chipper, but it’s the only unit that would fit. We have exactly one table which has to serve for homework, eating, and arts and crafts, and it’s hard for us to fully flex our astounding creative prowess when all projects have to be finished in one sitting and no more than two people can color at one time. Puzzles are out of the question. Having people over requires planning. We like our minimalist, stuff-free life, but let’s be real, every day is still a struggle against clutter and where to stack the library books.

4. Living in a tiny house is quaint, charming, and cozy!

Tiny House articles are overwhelmingly positive, and on that note, overall, I would have to agree. I love my tiny house. I love the fact that we have family dinners (because there’s nowhere else to sit) and we do dishes together (because there’s no more room in the kitchen) and we watch movies together (because there’s nowhere for anyone to watch a different movie). I love that we cooperate (because we have to) and communicate (because otherwise someone would get throttled). I like the funky character of my old, funky house. I like that it’s unique, hidden away in farmland, a quick-to-clean relic of the past. I like that no one else I know has a home like this. I mean, hell, I named a blog after it.

In a nutshell, life in a tiny house is exactly what you might suspect it is: charming, inconvenient, economical, and either cramped or cozy, depending on how well you get along with everyone else in it on that particular day. We might outgrow our 518 square feet in the future, especially as the kids get older. But we’ll always remember our TTH years fondly, and for now at least, this little home suits us just fine.

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