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

388 comments

  • (For the record, I think a lot of tiny homes are amazing pieces of architecture and I am a fan. If I were a LONE INDIVIDUAL, I might be able to live in one, and I admire the designers of those structures. I’m mostly taking shots at the show and the people who show up on it, FYI.)

    (Yanno, in case people get mad or something.)

    • Also, my wife made up the joke about the tiny house pyramid scheme, and also the one about stacking tiny houses atop each other. I unabashedly stole them because she demanded I use them, but she needs credit because ultimately she’s funnier than I am.

      • What about prefabs though? What is the difference between these and Prefabs? Just an (even smaller) space? I feel like Prefabs would solve these folks’ size (*ahem*) issues (*ahem ahem*). I mean you can make a house out of like 2-3 shipping containers and stack them to where it can be pretty space conscious as these tiny-houses. Just a bit more “expanded”/space-wise.

  • We’ve got a pre-fab tiny house up on Hell Creek and it’s big enough for me, but two people, or dogs, make it extremely cramped. It’s about the length and width of a small sailboat, with more headroom. I love it when I’m alone. Not so much when my wife and kids are all up in my wee fortress of solitude.

    • My work shed is 150 sq feet (the attic doubles that, but it’s unfinished and is just for books), and if you cranked this into a tiny house it could work — again, FOR ME. Or for like, a little fakey getaway cabin outside — not for me, my wife, our dogs, my son. But some of these people actually do that! And the looks on the kids’ faces is one of pure terror.

  • “The marriage was built to last. But the house was built too small.”

    Possibly the greatest commercial ever, and foresaw the coming of Tiny House Hunters.

  • I’m totally one of those single people, but I do feel this SO HARD for most of the people you get on tiny house shows.

  • You share my guilty fascination with real estate shows and my misgivings about tiny houses. Are you sure we aren’t related? I always wonder what these people actually do with their time. They can’t be crafters, that’s for sure. The only place big enough to pin a pattern would be on the bed, and scissors in those cramped lofts would be a very bad idea. And do those couples never want to get away from each other, or entertain or have children?

  • So amusing. One of the first flash fiction challenges I did was about tiny house people in outer space. That said, I live in an 800 square foot trailer. If we’d part with the book storage (office) and shared computer desk area (dining room), we’d basically be living in small house quarters. We were looking at tiny houses before we got this thing (which is from 1964 and terribly energy inefficient). They weren’t really worth the price tag, compared to this drafty, potentially asbestos-filled, questionable plumbing eyesore).

    However, the tiny house thing is not a particularly new phenomenon. Most old eastern homesteads have spring houses / wash houses / outbuildings. Homesteaders built these small structures first, so they would have a place to live for the winter. Sometimes, they would be added onto and expanded into a larger house or, a few years down the road, the family would just build a new home after they had a chance to gather resources. These buildings were generally two floors, a room on each floor, which had to house an entire family. Of course, they didn’t have to worry about tiny bathrooms because… outhouses.

    • What gets me about some of the tiny houses is that they aren’t as well designed as most caravans. I look at someone them and think you would be more comfy in a caravan, which is a shocking failure of design, I think, especially given the prices they want for some of them.

    • The progression for my family was: platform tent, tool shed, pottery shop, “The Cabin” and “The Big House”. It was just my dad in the shed, he and Mama got married while living in the structure that would later be the shop, the cabin was up before the kids came along, and by the time we were both in school we had a big house with light switches and everything*!

      * Plumbing not included until a few years later.

  • I mean, I agree that some of the designs are very dinky and impressive (and some are very ordinary indeed) and if you were on your own, and spent a lot of time out, they could be a fun little bolt-hole. And I like the idea of cutting down on stuff. But some stuff is necessary to my life, or at least to me having fun. I like to cook and sew and those things need at least a little room and some equipment. And I don’t even have a proper fabric stash!

  • Two initial thoughts: first, BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Second, I once more feel vindicated about the whole cord-cutter thing and mostly using my television as a paperweight.

  • Every year in dog rescue, adolescent Great Danes are turned in by their owners and the reason given is, “It got too big.” A Great Dane. . .got too big. This same strain of brain seems active on tiny house people. “This tiny house is so. . .tiny.”

    • What plenty of people don’t realise, though, is that Great Danes can be perfect apartment dogs! They’re real couch potatoes, so as long as you abandon your entire couch to them, you’re set! They also only live for around 5-7 yrs on average – about as long as most marriages, so it can be rather convenient…. ahem.

      For a microfiction contest last year, I wrote this piece about a Great Dane and a tiny house: https://www.patreon.com/posts/4398137

  • This is JUST what I have thought! Fascinated too. Imagining too, that they haven’t considered the ramifications of Taco Tuesday. The other thing I keep thinking is how proud and precious these folks are of this ENTIRELY NEW concept of compact homes. I mean totally. Except for the entire industry of mobile home fabrication that’s been around since the 1950’s. But, you know, these homes are different because …reclaimed pine, composting toilet, monk-blessed heritage paneling, or some shit.

  • The thing is, I’m jealous because you can do sarcasm so well. I try, oh I try, but I’m just not very good at it. Just this morning I read an article about how sarcasm is good for increasing creativity, in both the originator and the receiver of the sarcasm. You go, you sarcastist, you!

  • April 5, 2016 at 10:16 AM // Reply

    By the time I got to “Keebler Elf-Tree”, I had to put the soda down and back away from the keyboard. Carefully. That carbonated crap stings when it comes out your nose.

    Thank you for curing me of my latest fad diet. I’d been *craving* a tiny house.

  • At least with e-books you don’t have to figure out where to put your 5000 real books in a house the size of a shoebox. Though if someone tried to downsize my library for me, I would probably wind up on a bus eating people.

  • Geez Chuck, you need a warning at the start of this post. DO NOT EAT (while reading). I nearly laugh-choked on my Raisin Bran when I got the Guy Fieri line.

  • Tiny House Hunters is my latest livesnarking pleasure. They seem to go out of their way to find people that really are not well-suited to the lifestyle. The ones trying to cram multiple kids into a tiny home – and usually a tiny room with little more than bunks – particularly disgust me. Kids need privacy. Well, okay, adults do too, but they’re at least typically better equipped to handle a lack of it.

    If your wife likes the tiny house shows, there’s a number of them on HGTV and DIY that are better (read: less dumb people). Tiny Houses, Big Living features people building their own. There’s one on HGTV in the early mornings that features shipping container designs, though I can’t remember the name. And Texas Flip and Move mostly has houses ranging between 400sqft-1500 sqft if you don’t mind a bit of drama from the “characters” remodeling the houses. Most of the people buying on these shows seem well-suited to what they’re buying (using them as vacation homes/rental properties, single, mobile lifestyle, etc.)

  • This is PERFECT. It’s like you crawled inside my mind while I was watching an episode of Tiny House Hunters. I’m in the process of building one from repurposed materials, and then THESE PEOPLE: “our budget is $75,000 (what?) meanwhile the woman is smiling through her teeth in fear and resignation.

  • I look at those, and I go “wow, somebody’s going to be super unhappy climbing up a ladder without handrails to bed when they break their ankle.” And then I look smugly around my single-level studio apartment for which I pay San Francisco Bay Area prices, and weep a little.

    My parents finally installed handrails on the outhouse ladder back home in Alaska. It’ll be nicer, visiting them after this.

  • My favorite is that they want a 300 square foot tiny house, But they’re king-sized bed has to fit and oh yeah they want a real bathtub.

  • Perfect. So a mom of five told me she’d love one of these things and I laughed. She said Later! Later. Not now. So she’s not COMPLETELY off her rocker. That was good to learn.

  • To be honest, they could probably build much larger “tiny houses” if they didn’t put the stupid things on trailers. Those heavy-duty trailers cost like 8 grand! Put that 8 grand into floor space! Sheesh.

    I suppose it makes “good TV,” but much like a lot of TV, it’s all fantasy.

    When are they going to start making shows about where those people are 5 years later?

    • The trailers part was originally so they could meet certain building codes, within certain cities, without being a permanent structure. All the original intent behind these tiny homes gets lost when it becomes “trendy” and yeah now it’s on HGTV so forget it. The whole world knows about them now.

  • This post had me in stitches! I’m a Tiny House person, but I agree with you: for some of us, minimalism is inside us. I was the kid who would voluntarily get rid of unused toys and clothes every few months and be happy about it – yay, less stuff! My mom tried to make me keep stuff by telling me I’d miss it later. Never did.

    The only exception to my purge habits is books. Because books. Duh.

    A great way for people to see if they can live in 250 square feet: rent a little apartment the same size. We live in a 600 sqft apartment, and keep thinking, “this place is freaking huge.”

    • I am cleaning house…..as in purging, dehoarding, decluttering, getting rid of dead weight in my home. So I read a lot of sites and blogs that talk about minimizing. I’m on board! Right up to the “get rid of all your books and get an e-reader” speech. Ummmm…..I don’t think so. No. It’s really nice to come across like minded individuals who live in a small space who make an exception to books when it comes to purging!

  • When I was a kid – from about 7th to 9th grades – I lived in a 30′ camper trailer with my parents and our dog. As much as I was (barely) willing to accept the necessity of it, it was a fucking nightmare.

    My bedroom was a dome tent outside, for about a year of that time. Even for a 13 year old, the novelty wears off fast.

    I’m willing to bet that a lot of the people contemplating tiny houses would turn their nose up at a motorhome or a trailer, which involves some pretty epic cognitive dissonance.

    • OMG me too! Well, I didn’t sleep in a tent for so long, but for 9th grade. It was embarrassing. We were poor, and couldn’t get a rental, so we lived in a campground for a while. Me, mom, step-father-du-jour, and their baby. It did teach me about not hoarding “stuff”, for a time. Yet, now in my 40s, I find myself with too much stuff, living in a trailer home. Accumulation, I suppose.

  • April 5, 2016 at 11:00 AM // Reply

    I find them fascinating, and my writer-brain says, “Put one by a lovely lake and it’s the perfect writing getaway cabin.” But add in my husband and my son? OH NO. Living in a smallish house with only bathroom strains family unity enough. 🙂

  • Great article. I could never do it. I love looking at pictures of tiny houses and I even find myself thinking how sweet it might be and then I come to my senses.

    Amaranth, motherfuckers! is now my new catchphrase.

  • Ahahahaha! Hilarious Chuck! Of course, I think they’re adorable, but only as a weekend getaway sort of thing. Had a three bedroom apartment and needed more “space” precisely because 13-year-olds need their own rooms (preferably).

  • Perfection. I was just talking about this topic with my partner the other day and you hit all the points and then some. …And I don’t even watch reality tv. Just reading about the concept of Tiny Houses is enough for me to shake my head in dismay.

  • I love seeing the smart design that can be showcased in tiny houses, but like many of you, the disconnect of what 300 square feet can get you versus the hunters’ expectation really keeps my brow raised perpetually.

    I feel the same way watching the Love It or List It shows – there’s gotta be a bingo card regarding the surprise that comes from learning the cost of working in the walls/structure (plumbing, electrical) in a home where if you touch it, ya more’n likely have to bring it up to code.

  • I pin pics of tiny houses to Pinterest, not because I want one, but because I *do* want my own creativity shed out in the back yard. Desperately. Passionately. And it’s never gonna happen because kids and pets and the always on the edge of ruin budget, yet I wants one, Precious.

    But *live* in one?

    Hahahahahahahahaha.

    • April 12, 2016 at 11:18 AM // Reply

      Totally going to use “hello…mentally 12” if you don’t mind. I’m a 52 year old mom who shares a 15 year old man-child and a 17 year old princess with an ex man-child. I only need one LARGE room for all of my art/sewing/collections of Hey-I-think-I-could-make-something-out-of-that elements…Tiny house be damned!

      • Lol! Exactly! I’m delighted that some folks can live in and love a tiny house but I’m not one of them. I make things. Just the three sewing machines, cutting table, tools and fabric would eat up one tiny house. And that’s JUST the sewing stuff.

  • True enough, the folks on those shows can be pretty over the top, and the Tiny House notion often feels kind of overblown…

    but it has to be said, it’s an extreme reaction to an extreme situation. So many of us see our chances of owning a home, *any* home, dwindling into nothingness. We grew up in middle-class households in modest homes that, were they plopped wholesale into the neighborhood where I live, would cost a million dollars. I think for many the urge to have some kind of space that you can genuinely call your own, to not be beholden to a landlord for the rest of your natural life, is the impetus behind the tiny home movement. It may not be much (space), but it’s *yours*.

    Couple that with a natural, and long overdue, recognition of the ecological burden of heating and cooling much-too-large houses, and of filling those houses with plastic junk as so many people did, and still do, and it’s a bit more understandable. Ill advised in most cases, but understandable.

    As with so many things, the reasonable path is somewhere in the middle, in a house that’s the right size for actual needs and which has access to the sort of things that the residents want, be it a vegetable garden, play set for the kids, or a shop for making stuff. But I, and most of my debt-laden peers, can’t afford even that either without moving somewhere we don’t want to live. So we peruse tiny houses on our pinterests in our shoe-box apartments.

    • “So many of us see our chances of owning a home, *any* home, dwindling into nothingness.”

      This. This is why I want a tiny house. I don’t need it to be one of those teeny cute ones they show on TV. Also, unlike the people on those shows, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a mobile/prefab home, which basically the same thing, only not as hipstery. I’d be willing to deal with a composting toilet, though I fully recognize it would be a pain in the ass, and I don’t have a bathtub where I rent *now* so that wouldn’t be a hardship… I don’t think of those things as quaint or somehow beneficial to my character, but as things that I would be willing to endure in order to have a house that was my own.

      I actually like watching those shows sometimes because they occasionally have clever ideas on living in small spaces, but it does bother me that they show tiny houses as basically a novelty or a “fad diet” for a certain class of people (I wouldn’t say “wealthy” exactly, but certainly wealthier than me) who wouldn’t be caught dead in a trailer park and who think living like a pioneer would be anything other than hard ass work.

    • I hear you, but, speaking as someone who’s both rented and owned a variety of types of properties, I think it’s a mistake to assume that “owning” is always more economical. You have to factor in other forms of repeating costs — association dues, land costs, utilities, higher taxes, and whether or not you have re-sale value. Some rentals can be quite feasible options, especially if you’re putting money into investments on a regular basis while renting.<<<DO THIS!! For many people, home "ownership" is just enforced equity building via a mortgage, and that's not always the most profitable way to get return on your cash. If you're disciplined enough to invest in yourself, to turn what would have been mortgage interest into savings, you can sometimes come out better than you would have if you had bought a home. And, there are factors like whether or not you want to get away from dogs, your future plans, the type of neighborhood, etc. If you have to move to a new job, for instance, all the broker and financing fees can easily chomp any profits from equity.

      I retired last year, and wound up in a 55+ mobile home park (horrors!) I can tell you a) I'm far from the only person here who went to college, and b) I knew more of my neighbors in two weeks than I did in 16 years at my old townhouse. (And, I may get a novel out of all the in-park intrigue!) We have strict noise and animal regulations, which I badly needed. (I was forced out of my old place by perpetually barking dogs and was attacked by a neighbor's pit bull in my car port; "good neighborhood" my ass.) This place is gated, also, which greatly adds to the overall safety factor. I wound up putting about 45% of my equity from the townhouse directly into the bank even though I now have more privacy and 350 more square feet. I still have payments for the association, the space and utilities, but it's only about a quarter more than I was paying in the townhouse. In the townhouse, technically, I owned the land I was on and now I don't. Since I didn't own mineral rights in either case, the difference is pretty trivial. I also looked at putting a small home on a 2-acre rural property I own, but I would have been carrying all the utilities installation and maintenance costs (including hauling water), and that's a major repeating cost that I still would have had even though, technically, I owned everything. I'm hoping to age-in-place and have no dependents, so I don't need no stinkin' equity (Although, if I did need to sell, I'd likely break even for this place, which is awesome.) Short version: it's all big equation. The only way to avoid having to deal with neighbors, regulations, hassles, fees and interest is to be filthy stinking rich out on that private island. The rest of us just have to juggle all those micro-decisions and projections.

    • I think what gets me most about the tiny house thing is I just can’t see how they differ so much from trailers, campers, and/or prefab homes. I could understand the need to own something (grew up in a paid for trailer and then later apartments), but the specific focus seems, to me, to make it about something other than simple owning something to call home (as you said many of these people seem to look with disdain on trailers, RVs, prefab, etc.). To me it seems like it is catching on with people who “downsize” and live “rustically and authentically” by choice, but have the resources to do otherwise. A lot of these tiny homes cost a lot of money, around $50K or sometimes even higher. Is it that they are super durable and will last decades as opposed to some of the other options. Even then trailers can be modified to increase longevity and steel prefab homes I have to imagine are pretty durable not to mention can withstand higher winds. I get this desired as applied to concepts like the $20K home – http://www.ruralstudio.org/initiatives/20k-house – but not a $50K tiny home.

  • I was reading an article a couple of months ago that followed up on some of these Tiny House Nation adventures. In six months, most of them had been abandoned (along with several relationships) or put up for sale, or turned into weekend retreats. OK, found it. Look in the Globe and Mail for “Teeny house, big lie: Why so many proponents of the tiny-house movement have decided to upsize” It’s pretty funny! Personally, I already live in a tiny apartment. As a writer’s retreat, these teensy things have some appeal, but it would be like living in a doll house, or a backyard playhouse.

  • I am… in essence, an indoor cat. I don’t go out much. Even in my own yard, it’s either too windy or bright or cold or the neighbors dogs OMG THE NEIGHBORS DOGS THAT BARK AND BARK.
    This said, I tend to require more space indoors so I don’t go on a murderous rampage.
    Even if I lived alone I’d probably require at LEAST 800 sqft with decent headroom. And lots of windows so the space feels less like a coffin of death.
    I mean, shit, if you want to downsize, buy a ‘modular home’ (aka trailer house). They’re real popular here out west and the one my friend was in had a five piece master bath with whirlpool tub AND a second bathroom for the kids. Not too shabby!
    Though I do sympathize with the sheer COST of buying a home, ANY home. People get obsessed with the notion of owning and escaping a landlord and the FREEDOM of…a crushing debt and 30yr mortgage payment.
    We just bought a house and we were just lucky our home market came UP when we sold, bc moving 60mi north meant a cost increase of over $100,000 for the SAME SIZE HOME. It’s madness.

  • “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.”

    And this is why I love you so freaking much.

  • We lived on our sail boat and that was enough “tiny” to last a lifetime. Thank goodness for the facilities on the dock.
    The best part is when you think: where are they going to put this thing? And you find out it is going in their parents’ yard! And they think they are moving out on their own.
    Or it’s going on the 50 acres they own.
    The funniest was the guy with the chicken coop and aquarium/hydroponics that was going to take his tiny home on the road; pictures of the windblown chickens and a water soaked interior to be shown on the follow ups.
    Thanks for posting this. Great start to the day.

  • You must have seen the episode with the military family (with four kids!!) in Monterey, CA where all the wife could talk about was boinking her husband while they perused tiny houses [shudder] I still have nightmares.

  • As I understand it, if the people are on one of those “hunters” shows, they’ve already picked a house, and the rest is theater. Mr. Luna and I used to like the idea of a tiny house, but we live in a renovated 1962 trailer, with a detached garage (not in a trailer park, so no lot rent), and we *still* find we have too much stuff for the space. It would take a major overhaul of our attachment to our things before we could downsize further. That and a loft bed is out of the question when one has certain disabilities. So, yeah, off the table completely now.

  • April 5, 2016 at 1:29 PM // Reply

    While I’ll agree that a tiny abode is not for everyone, I have successfully lived with my spouse in something that’s not much bigger than 250-400 square feet for 22 years: a boat. I have neighbours who have raised families of 2-3 children in similarly sized boats, and their kids are some of the most well-adjusted kids I know.

    You’re right: small spaces are not for everyone. But to say they’re not appropriate for anyone beyond singles and warn all families away is myopic.

    I love my tiny home. (Just don’t ask me about the mess right now 😉

1 2 3 6

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds