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Big Dreams Realized in Tiny Houses

Naveen Sultan about 12 months ago

Tags: Tiny Houses

photo by Flickr/Tammy Strobel

Big Dreams Realized in Tiny Houses

By Amy Beeman

Tiny homes aren’t just for Manhattanites and Scandinavians anymore. For the last several years a small group of people across the United States have been trading in their large houses and mortgages to become the proud owners of “Tiny Homes”, which are actually built with the same materials as a standard house, but are usually under 200-square-feet. Total. Enthusiasts proclaim they are the antidote to our bigger-is-better attitudes and our misguided consumerism. While these Tiny Houses are pretty freaking adorable, and their proponents have nothing but good things to say about how downsizing in such a drastic way has improved their quality of life, there are certainly some downsides too.

Most popular among post-college single folks, couples who really get along, and people over 50, these dwellings are compelling because, as their owners say, they allow for more freedom and enjoyment of life. They trade indoor space and non-necessary material goods for more time and money to put towards their interests, hobbies or travel. Tiny-Housers don’t have to spend as much of their lives working to pay for a big house they say they don’t really need. They can choose to earn less but follow their passions with out so much to pay for every month. They have more free time because there is less maintenance, less to clean, less time spent buying things to fill their homes. With such little overhead they say they are even able to become debt free.

Tiny Houses are often built by their owners, but are also bought pre-built. They average about 186-square-feet, and cost an average of $23,000 to build, according to the website, though you can trick-them-out and pay as much as you are willing to spend, and they can be as big as 500-square-feet (It actually costs more per square-foot to build a Tiny House than a regular house because you need so many custom things). They can be built on foundations, but most are built on trailers to get around building codes regarding mandatory sizes of residential homes. The trailers also allow for portability.

A typical Tiny House includes a lil’ kitchen, bathroom, a living space, often a loft sleeping area and a front porch. Sure, sounds a lot like living in a travel trailer or RV, but there are a couple of differences between living in a Tiny House vs. living in a recreational vehicle. Tiny Houses are essentially just a very very small house. They can have pitched roofs, french doors, picture windows, second levels and high ceilings. They have much better insulation to withstand inclement weather. Everything inside is compact and built creatively for storage needs (think Ikea). They are usually made of wood, such as elm or cypress, but can be made of various materials both new and reclaimed. They can be powered electrically or by solar panels, and running water is do- able even for those who are choosing to park their Tiny House off the grid. Owners often take on this project and lifestyle with a big ‘Do It Yourself’ mission, so they’re seeking a certain sort of experience out of it.

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, an author and blogger about Tiny Homes said in the documentary “Tiny: A Story About Living Small,” that Tiny Houses are “less to heat, less to furnish, less to maintain, less to pay for, no mortgage in certain cases. So all around you’re kind of bucking they system.”

All of that sounds great. But still, there are some logistical issues that must be weighed. Even though many of us can get on board with spending less on things we don’t really need, this can’t all be rainbows and unicorns.

For one, Toilets and toilet smells. This is an issue for Tiny House dwellers, as you can imagine. There are a few different options for dealing with human waste with or without water. Some of the more stationary Tiny Houses are hooked up to a septic tank, but many are not, and for those who are not, there is the issue of having to physically dump your own stuff every so often, and where to dump it. A couple of options include the cheap way, bucket and peat moss route, i.e. composting your poo, or you can get a commode that incinerates it, but that is reportedly stinky and expensive. None of these options though, are as lovely as a one of the best inventions ever- flush toilets that take away our bodily excretions to a place where we never have to think about them again. Enough said.

Another thing to consider is where to park the thing. Though many Tiny Houses are built on trailers, they are not meant to move around like a traditional camper. They can be moved of course, but they’re heavy and not aerodynamic, so the idea is to park it. There are some Tiny House communities out there, where people tend communal gardens and do a bunch of other crunchy granola activities together, but many other Tiny- Housers are solo, and need to find a place to put their houses, which can be a challenge.

The main options are backyards where RVs or sheds are allowed, rented land, maybe you have some family land to post up on, buy your own land (which makes the whole thing cost a lot more), or there are some RV parks that allow Tiny Homes. Commenters and writers on various website say that this is one of the most challenging parts of living in Tiny Homes. And of course, your spot ultimately depends on whether you want to be deeper into nature and enjoy serene surroundings, or in an urban community where there’s metropolitan type stuff to do outside of your teeny little house. Either way, Tiny House living means living outside of the dwelling probably more than it does for people who live in average or large homes, so your surroundings are pretty important.

And what about space for things things that aren’t just meaningless junk, but things that are part of who you are, like if you’re a wood-worker, or a musician, or love to cook? What if you start a family? For these types of things, this sort of small space just would likely get pretty frustrating. Some who love Tiny House living build separate or added on structures that can become hobby rooms or offices, rooms for guests or even kids, or you could spring for what Tiny House architect Jay Shafer called his “mansion” of 500- square-feet in the “Tiny” documentary. He upsized after starting a family.

This sort of living has really strong pros, and some pretty clear cons, both of which are laid out here by this blogger who, unlike myself, tried it for over a year. Though I like the idea, there is no way I would live in a Tiny House with my two little boys and husband because I want us all to continue to have good relationships with each other. For that we need rooms with doors. But depending on where a person is in life, this could be a really great solution to having more financial freedom and time. Plus the things are so dang cute.

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