I live in 194 square feet. Yes, I am one of those…a tiny houser. I have always been a minimalist, so the transition from 1,215 to 194 square feet wasn’t really that hard. I had been mulling over the idea of a tiny house way before it was trendy, but I didn’t pull the trigger until a year ago. Since my only child was now grown, I figured it was time. I did my homework. I went to the Tiny House Jamboree to scrutinize housing plans, builders, and options. I scoured Pinterest for hundreds of hours. I read articles, blogs, and books. When I thought I was fully informed on the subject I dove straight into the deep end of the pool. I sent my specs to my carefully selected builder and wrote a check. All in all, I love living in my tiny house (pictured above) and I wish I had done it sooner, but in the last year, I have found reasons to hate tiny living.
1) There will be ONE thing you will miss (maybe more).
For me, it’s my toaster. My daughter and I carefully listed what we thought we might or might not need in Ginwitty (the name of our tiny house). No, we didn’t need an oven because I don’t bake. Yes, we wanted a big shower because girls need room to shave their legs. No, we didn’t need a closet because we both have minimal wardrobes, etc. We were also careful to select our appliances. No, we did not drink enough coffee to warrant bringing the Keurig, but yes, we absolutely needed our electric kettle. We also needed the electric frying pan and Instant Pot. We nailed it. We had everything we needed and everything had a place. Nothing more. Except we forgot the toaster, the damn toaster.
After a year of living tiny, my daughter says to me, “I miss toast”. And you know what? I do too. I miss golden brown English muffins, crispy bagels and toast! Going vegetarian is hard enough without denying ourselves toast. The problem seems simple enough to rectify. Buy a toaster! But that’s the thing with tiny living. The toaster has to go somewhere. It’s fair to say that we are not crammed to the gills because everything has a place, but if I buy the toaster, we will cross the line. So the problem solver that I am, I say to myself, “What can I get rid of?” I pause to ponder. We are pretty paired down. Um, food, if I get rid of the cans in the cupboard, I will have room for a toaster. I offer this proposition to my daughter who actually is taking time to consider it. I’ll get back to you on our decision.
2) Your house will smell like a locker room.
I am, what some would say is paranoid on the subject of smells. My daughter has Aspergers and is particularly sensitive to odors. We are careful to avoid any chemical fragrances and stick to essential oils. We are clean, tidy people who never let the garbage get beyond a small empty dog food bag full. A tiny house is super easy to air out in the summer just open the doors and windows. However, come winter and jeepers, I swear the Olympic track team has been sleeping in my house. As soon as it’s 40 degrees outside I turn off the heat, open all the window and doors and air this joint out! When it is less than 40 degrees I am anointing cotton balls with essential oil and tucking them into every nook and cranny. Eucalyptus oil, check. Peppermint oil, check. Thieves oil, check. One tiny dog fart and we are opening a window and turning on the ceiling fan. Why don’t you use an essential oil diffuser you ask? Because we live in the Pacific Northwest and do not need the extra humidity.
3) Don’t open your mouth when someone poops.
As long as we are on the topic of odors. Don’t open your mouth when someone poops. I have a very well ventilated bathroom. I also have a compost toilet. The compost toilet actually works super well and we use Starbucks coffee grounds (if they only knew) as our compost. They give the grounds away for free to “enrich your garden”. We find they are the very best composting material to cover up your business. So it is not the actual toilet that stinks. It is the air from the act of pooping. In a house so small, as soon as the bathroom door has been opened you smell the sulfur of a considerately lit match and….poop. But who are we kidding, in a tiny space if you open your mouth you just might taste it. If one were to spritz the bathroom with peppermint oil, as we first tried doing, then all you get is peppermint poop when you breathe in. I find if you poop, then shower…all with the fan on, by the time you are done showering the damage is far less. The truth is you get used to it and you try to time your business to have the least amount of impact on the other person.
4) You can’t take it everywhere.
I have two huge pieces of advice if you are considering building a tiny house. Let me address the first one here. Make sure your house is RV certified. It’s worth the cost. That sticker can save you from getting kicked out of places that RVs are allowed. I had parked my house next to my parents for two days before the city came knocking on my door to bust my chops. That RVIA sticker saved my butt. As soon as the guys from the city saw it, they wished me a nice day and were on their way. Without it I would have had to show all kinds of building permit paperwork, etc. With a RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) sticker, it is considered a “custom” RV. With the RVIA sticker I can go pretty much anywhere an RV can go. If a builder tells you a RVIA sticker is no big deal, they are lying. Believe me, it has saved my bacon multiple times.
5) You HAVE to have somewhere to park it!
This is my second piece of advice; make sure you know where you are going to park your tiny house. Not having a place to park my RV has been the bane of my existence. Originally I moved out to the PNW with a plan. We found 5 acres that we could rent to park our tiny house on. We had talked with the landlords for months and everything was a go. When we rolled out from Montana we had a nightmare on our hands. The land was very difficult to get to. A truck on its own might have shimmied through the blackberry bushes and over-growth with no problem but I scratched the heck out of my house. The lot was isolated, the water hadn’t been tested and they had the wrong kind of power. Just so you don’t think I am a perfect idiot, I did send some family to go check out the spot ahead of time and the landlord expressed that all of our concerns would be addressed before we arrived. They weren’t. We lasted a week in that God forsaken mudhole and got the hell out. The second week we were able to park in a friend’s driveway until a neighbor complained. Now what the heck do we do? I posted on every tiny house forum, craigslist, and classified within three counties. Nothing but radio silence. We finally found a campground that would take us and here we sit. We are looking for land to rent again or land in the county to buy (because tiny houses are not allowed in the city). So the lesson here is HAVE A PLACE TO PARK IT!
In spite of it all, I do love tiny house living. It suits me. It’ll suit me better when I have a more permanent place to park it.