An Open Letter To Tiny House Hunters

Dear Tiny House Hunters:

Boy howdy, those tiny houses sure do look cool. I’m with you on this. They’re like dollhouses that you get to live in. Everything is so neat, so compact, so pragmatic. Looking at your existing home or apartment, you start to think, LOOK AT ALL THIS WASTEFULNESS. Do I really need all that floor near my bed? What am I doing with it except walking on it in order to get into bed? Do I really need that much counter space? Yes, I have a bowl of fruit on the counter, but surely that’s an improper and extravagant misapplication of three-dimensional space. What if I could just store my fruit under the sink, or in a secret ceiling cubby hole, or in a quaintly hollow tree stump outside? Are hallways anything but just the middleman of architecture? Do I truly require this much oxygen? My own house suddenly feels bloated, like a gassy belly. It’s cluttered and chaotic and — I mean, is this a house, or is it the airless infinity of outer space? Right? Am I right?

The tiny house is like a diet.

You look at it, and you think: I can do that. I can get healthy. I will juice cleanse and then eat asparagus and chia seeds for the rest of my life, and sweet hot fuck, I’ll be healthy as a horse. A robot horse. A robot horse who will live forever and be the handsomest robot horse ever. I’ll lose this weight. People will admire my lean frame and my culinary judiciousness. I’ll eat like a rabbit. I will defy gluten and cast sugar into the sea and JUST SAY NO to pizzas and ice creams and tacos and all I will eat are these rods of asparagus and these spoonfuls of chia seeds and once a week for dessert I will treat myself with these delicious crackers made from ancient grains (amaranth, motherfuckers!). For sweetness, I will mist them with agave syrup the way the lady at the fragrance counter mists you with perfume as you walk past.

I will diet, and I will be good.

I will tiny house, and I will be good.

* * *

I started watching your show at my wife’s behest.

We used to watch House Hunters until we learned the whole thing was a crass, reality show lie, and then we watched House Hunters International because even if it was a lie you got to see how they took showers in Iceland or what atrocity they called a “kitchen” in Hungarian apartments and of course we’d occasionally wiggle our toes in other shows, like that horrible one where people who are way too rich actually try to buy entire fucking islands because sure, why not, buy a whole fucking island, assholes, but if you’re not turning it into a villainous fortress then I just don’t understand you.

One day my wife said, “You need to watch this new show.”

And I said, what is it, and does it star Guy Fieri, and will he milk the donkey sauce from his pubic beard into a chicken stock in order to make the soup that takes us all down to the FLAVORPOCALYPSE. And she said, no, no, “It’s a new House Hunters show,” and I thought, well, where else can they go? Maybe House Hunters New York Apartments where we follow a broke single person trying to fight rat-swarms in order to find a rent-controlled outhouse-sized apartment for less than the cost of a mansion in Minnesota.

“It’s not that,” she said. But it was close. It was very close.

Enter you people. Hunters of tiny houses. Cave-humans once stalked lions on the veldt, but you intrepid hunters track itty-bitty homes — houses compressed down like coal until they become the shining diamonds of Spartan living.

You are the tiny house hunters. Er, not that you yourselves are tiny — far from it, as some of you are quite large-sized, like many of us humans! No, no, the tininess is embodied in the houses you seek. These homes are magnificently small. Many are 200, 300 square feet — 400 max. You get a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, maybe a living room or sitting area, but all those rooms are smooshed together, stacked on top of one another, or are merged into mutant aberrations (“WELCOME TO THE KITCHEN WHERE THE SINK IS YOUR SHOWER AND THE OVEN IS YOUR CLOTHES DRYER.”) It’s not an apartment. It’s like a regular house hit with a shrink ray.

The normal house made Lilliputian.

Some look like little cabins! Others like chic trailers! Others still are shipping containers, or hobbit houses, or weird Transformers that expand and contract like a breathing lung.

I find that there exist two overall categories of tiny house hunters.

One group of you is the lone individual. You’re maybe young, an artist, with lots of student loan debt, and you tell us all the lie that you’re going to buy the tiny home and buy some property with it, except the truth is, your tiny home will forever haunt the yard of one of your siblings because that’s where you plant it. Or maybe you’re older — a musician gone to pasture or an aging hipster or a yarn lady — and you’re divorced or your spouse has perished in the usual way and now you just want to pare down your life. I understand that.

Another group of you are the couples.

Oh, the couples.

Two people who think they can co-habitate in a space roughly the size of the Keebler Elf Tree. Some of you are also older: you’re retiring and you are embracing austerity in your later years. One of you is perhaps way more on board than the other with living in this adorable little tomb, and that’s fine. Maybe you’re a younger couple instead, and if that’s the case, you probably have like, four kids and two dogs and you think ha ha ha that this is going to be good for your family, don’t you? Because sure, kids and animals like nothing more than being crammed together in a piano crate, forced to share their limited oxygen while Mommy and Daddy make clumsy, grunting love in the casket-sized open-air loft above everybody’s heads, and the dogs are barking, and the kids are fighting, and Mommy and Daddy are rutting like wild boars and yay, family.

I watch this show, though, and no matter who you are, I’m always a little amazed at your reactions. As if you don’t actually know what a tiny house is? You start out by saying, “We want to simplify and downsize,” or “We want our family to be closer,” and then you get into these tiny houses and start changing your tune. You say things like, “This is cramped,” or “Where’s the shower?” or “What is a composting toilet?” You then say, “This is cute,” but you say it in the way someone says it when they’re looking at someone wearing a homemade sweater. You don’t mean it. You look terrified, like an otter trapped in a cardboard tube.

So, I’ve seen a number of these episodes now, and I’d like to walk you through some of the realities you are likely to face upon procuring and dwelling within one of these tiny houses.

First, the toilet. We just need to get this out of the way right now. It’s very possibly a composting toilet. Now, if you’re a hipster like me, you think, HEY COMPOSTING IS GOOD, but I do want you to understand, you’re basically keeping your poop. I mean, we all keep our poop somewhere. Mine is underneath my backyard. But yours will be closer. More intimate. It will be mixed with sawdust or coconut hulls or, I dunno, the ashes of your parents, but you’ll keep it close and it will turn into dirt that conceivably you can use to grow flowers. That’s very nice. But make no mistake, whereas right now you poop into a bowl and pull a lever and the poop is whisked away by forces unknown, in a composting toilet you mostly just poop and then kinda… get up and walk away. I say this only because many of you seem quite surprised. As long as you don’t mind pooping like you’re living at a Lilith Fair, you should be fine.

Second, the toilet. Nobody has brought this up on the show, but I’m going to now: if you live with other humans, eventually one of you is going to take the kind of deuce-evacuation that could conceivably destroy a marriage. Normally you’d be fine, because normally you’d be living in a normal-sized human house where you have a door to close and a fan and several rooms or even floors of separation. But now you dwell in an elf-house and now you and all the other elves are going to share in that dump you just took. You’re going to live with it for a while. Everyone is going to become intimately familiar with one another’s bathroom peccadilloes, okay?

Third, okay, actually, it’s also possible that the toilet is an outhouse. Which is great and fine but please be aware that spiders love outhouses. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Fourth, your bed is going to be a claustrophobic morgue-drawer nightmare. The ceiling will be three feet above your head and that’s only if the mattress is of the same material they make diapers out of. If it is a proper mattress, your nose is probably going to be pressed against the top margins of your tiny house. Beds, actual human beds, are fucking huge. Perhaps extravagantly so, I dunno, but we have left the era where we could comfortably sleep on a pile of reeds on the hard rocky earth and now we sleep on giant mattress configurations that are basically as big as half of a tiny house. If you want to practice what it’s like sleeping in a tiny house, sleep in one of your drawers, or in the crawlspace under your existing normal-sized home.

Fifth, many bathrooms do not have sinks. So, what this means is, if you want to shave, you will shave in the kitchen sink. That’s face and legs and pits and crotch or whatever you shave, if you shave it. Also, that means if you take one of those aforementioned Herculean/Sisyphean dumps, to wash your hands will require leaving that room. Also sometimes the toilet is in the shower. And sometimes there isn’t a shower. Other times there is a bathtub outside because sure why the fuck not, go bathe with the raccoons and scrub your body with dry leaves, cave-person.

Sixth, yes, that is a tiny closet, and it will hold no more than the suit or dress in which they will bury you. Did you believe that a tiny house would give you a huge closet? The only way your tiny house has a huge closet is if you use your tiny house as a closet. Which I’m sure some people do.

Seventh, no, of course you’re not going to get full-size appliances. That’s an EZ-Bake oven you’re looking at. The sink accommodates a single coffee mug. The washing machine washes Barbie clothes. You need to stop asking about full-size appliances. Actually, if someone ever makes a bingo card for Tiny House Hunters, that’ll be one of the things that goes on it.

Eighth, okay, listen, people with kids and dogs. You want “family bonding time,” but what your kids see is “hostage-taking time.” This is like, “cult bunker time.” Your kids do not want to live that close to you. Or to each other. Your dogs want to run and jump and — I mean, they’re not hamsters, you understand that, right? They’re not hamsters, and you’re not diminutive little fairy creatures, and tiny houses are not houses, they’re GI Joe playsets, they’re hipster sepulchers, they’re absurdist shoebox dioramas. I admire your desire to lean into austerity and trim the fat from your life, but unless you have a huge property, shoving a family of 6 into one of these turtle terrariums is something some people have to do, but they wouldn’t choose to do it, y’know? I lived with my mother and father and a dog and imagining growing up in one of those things is giving me retroactive trauma — my bowels are clenching, turning my innards to ice water.

Ninth, a lot of those tiny houses are pretty dang expensive for what you get. You think they’re cheap but seriously you could probably rent a hella nice apartment or even buy a couple of cool wizard vans to live in for that price. Just an FYI!

* * *

What I’m saying is —

I worry about you, tiny house hunter people.

I worry that this is all some kind of pyramid scheme, that it’s like Amway or alpacas, that there’s some unseen Ponzi scheme at play here.

I worry that after a year living in one of those tiny houses, you’ll need to buy another tiny house, and then another, and another, until you’re just stacking tiny house atop tiny house in a teetering Jenga tower of hobbit homes and shipping containers and then one day it falls and crushes your whole hipster family.

I worry that in two years HGTV will air a follow-up WHERE ARE THEY NOW special and 75% of you will have died in murder-suicide schemes, having gone mad not in the labyrinthine expanse of The Shining hotel but rather gone cuckoo bananapants inside the claustrophobic MRI machine you decided to call home.

Like I said, buying a tiny house is like a diet.

Or, rather, it’s like going on a fad diet.

Austerity sounds virtuous. And for some people, it is the thing that motivates them, it is a part of who they are. For the rest of us, not so much. Fad diets often ask you to sacrifice things to which you’ve grown accustomed — and often things your body actually needs — under the auspices of getting healthy. I WILL CLEANSE MY BODY WITH JUICE AND SPROUTED GRAIN you think, and then someone walks by you eating a hamburger and some precious thing inside you snaps and next thing you know you’re on the city bus killing and eating people.

Tiny house living will be like this. It’s good for some. Single people in particular — I mean, hey, they do it in New York (usually because they have to, though, not because they want to). But for the rest of us, while we may find some value in paring down and cutting the wheat from the chaff, a tiny house may be a bridge too far. No, we don’t need to live in 3,000 square feet, but we also don’t need to live in an airless, soul-crushing box. Many of us will find joy in having a little leg room when we’re sitting on a toilet, or having a place to put our stuff, or having a table at which we dine instead of standing around holding plates and staring at each other. Many of us like having separate rooms instead of BATHROOM-KITCHENS. It isn’t that romantic having a refrigerator that’s also a toilet, or a bed that’s also a bathtub.

Maybe a tiny house is for you.

But watching this show and hearing your comments and looking at the terrified countenances plastered to your skulls, I’m thinking — nnnyeah, maybe not so much.

Be well, tiny house hunters.

And remember: you don’t actually have to live in a tiny house.

Love,

Me

P.S. most people are trying to move into bigger houses what the fuck is wrong with you most people only live in tiny houses because they have to, you privileged turd-necks

P.P.S. but I mean hey you do you

368 comments

  • I saw an episode where a couple bought an old school bus and planned to travel around in it. A school system isn’t going to unload a perfectly good bus, just the ones that have proven to be too costly to maintain any more. The family had 3 kids and she was pregnant. The guy needs to stay off his wife! The husband hadn’t driven a bus before and didn’t know how to do any mechanical or renovating work “and I don’t want to pay anyone else to do it either.” This looks like so much trouble on the way! The bus will surely break down along the highway somewhere and they won’t have the money to do a major engine overhaul. I’ve worried about that family because they had no common sense, just the idea that this would be SO MUCH FUN!!

  • A family of six moved into an RV in one episode. One 14 year old daughter who thankfully gets her own closet to live in. Three boys, most of which are about to hit their teens, have to bunk in one cramped cubby TOGETHER. But Mom and Dad need their own separate, private full-sized bedroom because they apparently can’t give up the space THEY already get because they need to make more babies.

    All because they took a trip in an RV for the summer and THERE WAS SO MUCH TOGETHERNESS.

    This isn’t togetherness when you make it a permanent situation. It’s child abuse.

  • The “houses” on this show are so small, the wicked witch would have ended up with just a broken leg when it fell on her.

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  • I get what you’re saying about the show because I see these six member families saying they can live in 400 sq ft and I’m like “No you can’t and that’s not family time, that’s a hostage situation.” Very few teens want to be that close to family and I see a lot of resentment headed their way. But, I also see the appeal of a tiny home. Take my case for example, it’s me, my mom and my dog. Because of personal and health issues I won’t go into, we can’t afford a bigger house, we live with a relative in a ROOM of that relative’s house. It was probably a single car garage in it’s hey day but now it’s a prison. Sure, we go to the bathroom and use the kitchen once in awhile but that room is bedroom, living room, and family room all in one.

    We’ve also experienced what it is to keep up a normal sized house and that’s just not for us. I don’t like spending hours cleaning a 1300 sq ft house that only two people inhabit most of the time and who don’t use all the rooms anyway.

    So yeah, we’re looking to go tiny or maybe the word is SMALL. We’re not going to do a 300 sq ft house because we’ll strangle each other. People need to do research, it’s not one or the other, you don’t have to either have a 3000 sq ft home or a 200 sq ft home, there is such thing as middle ground.

    What I don’t like about the Tiny House Hunters show is not just the lack of authenticity and truth in what they’re showing, but the lack of real options. I guess if it’s not a shoe box it doesn’t count as a tiny house? Well then I guess we need a Small House Hunters show to let people know there are other options, like 600-700 sq ft houses for TWO people, not for like an entire circus of people. Anyway, there are some benefits to going smaller on houses but people need to be realistic about it.

    I think the lack of actual reality in the show is what is leading people to believe that they can take their entire family and shove them into 400 sq ft of “happiness” and that’s just not reality, that’s fantasy.

    And yeah, the idea of a composting toilet would make me into a monster. That’s a hell no no matter what the situation is.

  • Too funny. But your right. Too many of us think what a great idea to downsize and move into a tiny house yet are unaware of all the things that entails. Right on!

  • You brought tears to my eyes from laughing so hard. I’ve seen a newlywed couple attempt a tiny house and it was all over but the crying. I think you have to know someone really, really well in order to live with them in such a small space and be able to speak your mind. Like…”get out, I need some alone time”.

  • I will never understand why these ppl don’t just get a plot of land in the middle of nowhere and put a single wide trailer home on it. You want cheap, small space….there you go.

  • Even I had a good laugh. & ive lived in a tiny home for several years debt free on SS & a pension, although I do work a few shifts a month. I do love it, however it’s not as romantic as I thought, especially in the winter! It’s only 288 ft. but for me that’s all I need. It has a full basement & sheds also.Theres times I’ve wondered what I was thinking, but it’s in the middle of the woods, & so beautiful in the summer & fall. Peace & quiet. The trees, my garden, flowers, the sun, the moon, the stars! & the birds & deer. And the bugs, the dust, the critters, the coyotes & the Bears! Gotta plan, 16 miles from town. I guess there’s compromises. The one thing I would say is Do Not buy a tiny house unless you will be living alone!!! I can barely live with myself at times! Just kidding. I’m an introvert who likes living alone & can see people anytime. Just not at my place. It’s my sanctuary. But I can not imagine 2 or more people living in a tiny house! Just sayin!

  • I’m surprised every time I see a family getting a tiny home no one mentions this: there are almost always two lofts facing each other and no bedroom door or wall for either (just railings), so I assume their sex life is over immediately. As a minimalist single person I could very comfortably do a well laid out, sunny, high ceiling, 400 sq ft tiny home quite happily. As a part of a couple I couldn’t. Kids and pets would be impossible.

    • I always wonder about sexy time. And let me tell you something-The other day I was late for work, and rushed out before flushing. Stale pee REEKS. There is no way tossing leaves or whatever on top of at least three pees and one poop per person daily doesn’t smell like the 11th circle of hell. And what about when you have food poisoning? Talk about the most horrendous stench, and you do it a million times per day .

  • Yeah, it’s easy to make fun of tiny houses, since they are not what most Americans have been doing for the past couple of decades. But there are Americans who live in spaces that small- New Yorkers, especially in Manhattan and close-in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    My husband & I have been living for the past 15 years in 348 square feet (not counting the basement, which is part crawlspace, part workshop/laundry. A couple of things that make it work: place for everything/everything in its place; it has rooms/walls, so we don’t live in an “open floor plan” and can be in different rooms doing different things if we want to; headphones for the TVs & computer so one of us can watch when the other is sleeping or reading.

  • One of the funniest things I have ever read in my entire life. I’m about to change my own lifestyle and in certain mentally ill, HGTV-inspired moments have thought a small house or container living might be an option. Then I come to my senses and think “fool, this is why retired American folks have lived in trailer parks for decades now.” There’s TONS of used trailers available for a fraction of the cost of these Ken and Barbie dork dorms. And where the F you gonna legally park your little prison cell?? Not everyone has some old auntie on 10 acres in Timbuktu who’s willing to share with you. Nope. Used trailer it will be – two bedrooms and at least one real American bathroom with a bottle of POO-POURRI and a door that closes. Composting toilet?? Mein Gott im Himmel – these folks seriously think it’s cool to take a crap two feet from where they prepare their food, even if it IS just tea and toast? I want room for at least half a dozen books, two to three pieces of artwork and a plant. Speaking of which, doesn’t anyone on these programs care about books or art? Suffocation sex in the “loft,” no big messy cooking and baking days, no books, no art, no plants?? No thank you! Even the cat likes a few different options of where to hang out during the day – and it’s not like I’m coming from living large. How I needed this laugh and serious reality check.

    • You are absolutely right! I did catch an episode where a couple in Seattle was looking for a “tiny” home, but we’re talking built on a piece of property, not one of those rolling platforms. She was up front about the need for hobby space and bookshelves; she figured she alone had about 1,000 books. The house they purchased actually had built-in bookshelves.

  • April 10, 2017 at 12:42 PM // Reply

    I enjoyed the article, though must say it’s a tad narrow-minded. I prefer a smaller living space and find life to be more enjoyable without a ton of clutter. I purchased a 500 sq. ft. house near a gorgeous lake in the country. I live alone and work from home, but my kids and grandkids LOVE coming to stay on weekends and no one complains about the space. There are separate rooms where I live and I have full sized appliances with the exception of the stacked washer/dryer.

    I found my house on the very edge of a neat little town, so I have municipal utilities including sewage and garbage collection. I agree todays higher end tiny homes are pricey, but consider they have a good deal of craftsmanship involved too (at least they should if commanding top dollar).

    As for “just buying a trailer” as many commented, there are MANY toxic materials used in constructing the majority of travel trailers and they’re neither built for long life nor safe in the storms that are common to my area. Air quality is a biggie in a small space, so wood, etc. really do help as opposed to plastics that output estrogen mimickers and all kinds of nasty stuff. I’ve even seen older AirStreams with asbestos. Horrible in a small space!

    After a complete nightmare of attempting to have a contractor (who specialized in tiny houses) build a custom home for me, I finally got my deposits back from said “builder” and eventually found a charming home that was initially built in the ’50s. A nice couple had purchased it, gutted it (with the exception of the original frame, foundation and hard-wood flooring). It had new wiring, plumbing, windows …everything else and the kitchen is spacious with more storage than my last favorite smaller dwelling – a condo I’d lived happily in for years. The bedroom has two closets and one can be quite clever with purchasing furniture that has storage space, doubles as guest beds …it really can work if thought is put into the space.

    My little home also came with a newly fenced-in quarter acre of land, all for far less than the unscrupulous contractor had tried to charge me …and I still needed to acquire land in that scenario as well.

    It all really boils down to using your noggin, knowing what you must have space/storage-wise, in order to be happy and being willing to commit to a lengthy search as these gems are not always easy to locate.
    Big pluses are; my house is paid for, taxes are next to nothing and I live in a beautiful setting where I feel much closer to nature.

    Happy house hunting regardless of your preferences!!

  • I heard of these about 10 years ago when a friend whose husband was a bit scammy by nature, started promoting architectural plans for these at 800 bucks and up a pop. Pay, download and then pay someone else to build it. No disclaimers about being careful of ordinances, moving them, depreciation etc. I was not surprised to see it as a program on HGTV because these “dream” housing shows always seem to correspond to a housing market that is starting to inflate (oh, so much money to be made on desperate people). This blog was hilarious and I do watch the show for a laugh, but I have read so many horror show commentaries on former tiny house owners who just abandoned their tiny homes because they could not afford to keep moving or fixing them. I am always concerned about communal (KOA) lots because you have no control on how much that land your leasing is going to cost you in the future. Its renting a campsite by any other name. How many times can you move that house before it collapses like a set Ikea of drawers? I think this show, coupled with house flipping shows are pretty much a suckers market. There are ‘success” stories I am sure but I am still waiting for the follow up programs where 85% of the people who took the bait got hurt. Not so funny, but hey, no one wants to watch that. Live the DREAM…

  • This show is the WORST!! All the House Hunter shows suck and the people in them are ridiculous. What are you gonna do when your 3 rugrats are teenagers?

  • Tiny houses are awesome and affordable if you build it yourself and some people need to live in tiny houses, but your spiel was nice.

  • I love tiny houses. I love them so much that I wrote a young adult contemporary manuscript about a girl who moves into one with her dad as a last resort because what teenager wants to live with their parent in a tiny house?! My husband suggested we get a tiny house. I told him that was fine as long as we got a divorce first.

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