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.
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