Where do you wash that towel, hmm?
July 8, 2015 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses… "You look so freakin’ happy in that Dwell Magazine article or Buzzfeed post, but c’mon, you can’t tell me that you don’t lie awake at night, your face four inches from the ceiling because the only place your bed fits is above the kitchen sink which also acts as your shower, and think, I’ve made a terrible mistake."
posted by Windigo (177 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, "How tall are you? 5'4" right? Cause seriously, I've got a half inch on you and I feel epically cramped looking at you.
posted by teleri025 at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is hilarious but does not diminish my desire to have a tiny home in the least.
posted by Kitteh at 8:41 AM on July 8, 2015 [34 favorites]


I actually do commend people who can live this life, but I am curious if it’s all peaches and cream like the swanky design magazines suggest.

Of course it's not, just like the lives of people who have the McMansions featured in swanky design magazines aren't all peaches and cream either. We are always being sold on the idea that life will be better "if only..." we did something different. It just means different challenges.
posted by nubs at 8:42 AM on July 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


Dwell Article Pitch: "Six floating staircases made of reclaimed and lacquered skateboards that will totally not kill you if you misstep upon them."
posted by boo_radley at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [22 favorites]


Somewhere a PoMo cultural studies PHD candidate is writing a paper on the connections between absurdly tiny homes and patriarchal body shame.
posted by idiopath at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [47 favorites]


We learn that it is now fashionable to de-clutter and live in small places. This notion mahy be based on a simple notion:
Many young people no longer able to own homes. So they rent. Rents are now going up and up through demand.
Ok to live "small" so long as you have a place to put your cute little place...But there are zoning laws, costly areas near important cities, etc. and so the answer: move South and live in a trailer and hope no hurricanes or tornadoes. Or children.
posted by Postroad at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


We looked into vacationing in a tiny house, a converted caboose in Wisconsin. And the price was wonderfully low, the place looked cute, and the location was great. But all I could think was, "Do I have to shove my kindergartener into the yard and turn up the music to have vacation sex? What about the vacation sex?"

Still, I kinda want one anyway.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Awh man this hits me right in the middle - both enjoying the snark while also having respect for people that make odd and cool things.

Do you have a tiny river that runs behind your tiny house? I bet you do. I bet your whole Goddamn property is whimsical.

Heh - manic pixie dream houses
posted by litleozy at 8:44 AM on July 8, 2015 [104 favorites]


Has anyone built one of these on giant chicken legs yet?
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


Isn't a tiny river a stream?
posted by Keith Talent at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh how badly I want a Tiny House TM But now that I have lived with my partner in an apartment three times the size of a Tiny House TM I know that we will have to buy two of them. Or possibly three. Which negates the whole point.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Most of the tiny houses that I've seen seem to be one large plots of land which means that they don't really solve any housing scarcity issues. Also they never seem to be cheaper than buying an old house that actually has some room to move around in.
posted by octothorpe at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [20 favorites]


Of course it's not, just like the lives of people who have the McMansions featured in swanky design magazines aren't all peaches and cream either.

Or like the lives of the millions of us who live in the original tiny houses, apartments.

I was initially interested in tiny houses, but increasingly they just seem to represent a sad, impractical (for most, anyway) end run at the receding American Dream of each family owning a freestanding home.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [40 favorites]


Ah, it's like Ikea and the Aristocrats had a tiny baby. The point of this joke is clearly in the telling based on the one line punchline: "Originally appeared on my blog, Hipstercrite."
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Somewhere a PoMo cultural studies PHD candidate is writing a paper on the connections between absurdly tiny homes and patriarchal capitalist body shame.

Maximising AND minimising economic efficiency + impact: having a body is wasteful (any 'waste' is wasteful) / look at what I can afford
posted by litleozy at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Didn't go well for these folks.
posted by orme at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


"and we're just covering everything in french country patterened throws and tiny tin teapots and then Jörp, my live-in-lover-slash-doggie-au-pair asks 'what if we païnt everything the color of our eyes, it'll be like we gazing into each otfer's soul when looking hat wjalls?' and then we're off to the Habitat for Humanity recycled paint depot and before you know it our shipping container house is cozy as can be"
posted by boo_radley at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2015 [21 favorites]


More I think about it, more interesting this is - underlying message of this fascination is a kind of economic/moral shaming of being poor and so not being able to afford space: you broom closet peasants would be happy if you were only smarter.

Because feeling cooped up isn't a failing of the housing market not providing liveable spaces, it's a personal failure of imagination.

not talking about people who make these houses exactly, more about why this trend has caught on
posted by litleozy at 8:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


Most of the tiny houses that I've seen seem to be one large plots of land which means that they don't really solve any housing scarcity issues.

yes but if you die in one you can forgo a coffin and just bury the house
posted by indubitable at 8:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [45 favorites]


So you can't just plop one of these down anywhere right? You have to run the electricity and water/septic to it and all that?
posted by griphus at 8:54 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ob GOB: I've made a huge tiny mistake
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


My in-laws had neighbors who lived in a tiny house in Maine. Their plan was to start with the tiny house and then slowly build out around it as they could afford it.

By the time my in-laws moved, the tiny house dwellers were still tiny house dwellers... if you disregarded the three Winnebagos and two camper vans parked around that one pristine tiny house.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:56 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


indubitable: "yes but if you die in one you can forgo a coffin and just bury the house
"

Not bury, just a great heaping up of dirt around you and eventually they make a park out of you.
Think "4 Rustic Funereal Mound Traditions We're Dying To Try"
posted by boo_radley at 8:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


The thing I always notice about tiny houses is that they might be great for 20somethings but my old achey and mildly disabled ass is not climbing a ladder to go to bed over the kitchen sink. Never mind inability to sex it up in privacy, I'd like a house where I can sleep.

(Also weird to see someone I'm acquainted with from karaoke league on the blue.)
posted by immlass at 8:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Isn't a tiny river a stream?

Not cute enough. "Tiny river" is getting there, but I feel like brook, rill, chase, and creek are cuter.

And TRUE HIPSTERS these days are going for tiny houses by sloughs.
posted by pie ninja at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Very funny. As someone who gets mildly annoyed when I'm working in the dining room and my wife is watching TV in the bedroom, I know the two of us could never live in a tiny house. We've been married for a while, of course. The smiling youngsters in all the Tiny House photos have not been married long, if at all.

And don't get me started about "stuff."

Like my piano. And my books.
posted by kozad at 9:00 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't see the point of these things when you could live in an apartment with real bathrooms and water and whatnot. I also have a hard time believing that they are better for the environment than living in an apartment. Every time I see a story on these things, people are either living in the middle of nowhere, which means driving everywhere, or on the good graces of family or friends that will let them park their Fancy Shack in the backyard. They are just a snobby upscale version of a tiny trailer home.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


Or maybe you can run out into the tiny forest surrounding your tiny house.

Don't do that! That is where the tiny army of tinyHuns are waiting to tiny pillage you!

Also, there are adorable tiny wolves (they can still bite the shit out of your with their disconcertingly large, white teeth).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Arguably I have lived in the spacial equivalent of a "tiny house" - in my case, it was a 1990's-era Lower East Side Two-Bedroom Apartment. Each "bedroom" was only 6'x10', and there was a sleeping loft built into each bedroom, because that was the only way there was room for any other furniture in the bedroom. The "closet" was a bar slung under the loft, and a 12'x14'-ish room served as a common room that served as both living room and kitchen.

And after twelve years there, I finally said "I'm now in my 30's and FUCK THIS" and moved to Brooklyn, where 6'x10' is the size of my walkin bedroom closet.

I don't need a lot of space, but I do know I need more than that.

(The irony is that I was arguably just vacationing in a cabin that would qualify as a "tiny house", and the sleeping loft was actually comfortable - the ceiling was high enough and the loft was big enough that it was like a tiny room I could stand up and walk around in. But - there was no closet, just a bar that was inexplicably slung by the front door next to a writing desk. Nice to visit, but not suitable to live there.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I liked the idea of a tiny house, but when I realized I would have to neatly fold every piece of clothing I have (at the laundry, 'cause no washer and dryer) and poop where I shower, the romance was over.
posted by Mooski at 9:11 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I share an apartment with my girlfriend. We have separate bedrooms, because we have different work hours and because I snore and because we kind of like it better. But I don't really have a bedroom. I have a tiny alcove that I have put a screen in front of. And I love it. I actually was always sort of jealous of Harry Potter's little bedroom under the stairs.

But to have an entire apartment that is this small, it helps to live in a place where a lot of the things people do inside (socialize, exercise, complicated cooking, space-consuming hobbies or collections) can be done outside the house or apartment. This is why these work well in big cities that offer a lot of communal spaces and inexpensive services and in nature, where some of what you do inside can be moved outside instead. In that way, your tiny apartment or house is really just a room in the much larger living space that is your city or nature.
posted by maxsparber at 9:12 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


You could possibly just go all Verne and move into an airship. That way, you would save money on land, and you could hatch a very cute scheme to conquer the world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


Go on ...
posted by maxsparber at 9:15 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Do people with kids actually own these tiny, one-room houses? They've always seemed like the sort of thing someone would move into after college and then move out of after a year or two along with giving up their Freegan lifestyle.
posted by bondcliff at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


The tiny house movement is the architectural equivalent of organic food, the idea that you'd really be happier and healthier if you lived like a medieval peasant.
posted by Small Dollar at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [38 favorites]


From the article: "What about guests? Where do you put your guests? Can friends and family even visit you? Do you have friends and family? ANSWER ME! Are people now afraid of you?"

Tiny House People are on the same level as Extreme Minimalism People in that their chosen lifestyle is actually a pretty big burden on everyone else they know. Entertaining in a tiny house? No way. The tiny house dwellers will benefit from everyone else hosting.

Like the extreme minimalist I heard interviewed on NPR once, who owns only one hundred (100) items and borrows the rest of what she needs from friends. Can you imagine having that moochy friend who's always hitting you up for clothes, tools, kitchen utensils, toiletries, and god knows what else?! Or worse, being the person living in a tiny house with no possessions and getting to know the grinding indignity of borrowing basic things on a constant basis. No thank you!
posted by witchen at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [29 favorites]


Bitch, please. Try living in an NYC apartment and then tell me these houses are so tiny you can't believe people survive happily in them. I BELIEVE.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


These are impractical for my partner-and-cats lifestyle, but there is something very soothing about the cleverly designed fixtures and novel use of space. I like learning about RV design and exploring the Ikea model apartments for the same reason.
posted by almostmanda at 9:18 AM on July 8, 2015 [21 favorites]


but there is something very soothing about the cleverly designed fixtures and novel use of space.

They remind me of those Altoid tin survival kits everyone was making a few years ago. Very clever, yet totally impractical and useless.
posted by bondcliff at 9:20 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


If I didn't have a kid, wife and dog, you'd be damn right I'd live in something (close to) 250 square feet. I mean, I did for YEARS. I lived in a studio that was 275 square feet. It was pretty great. Never felt cramped, unless for some odd reason more than one other person needed to crash on my floor.

My only gripe with the actual tiny homes that most people build is that their kitchens are totally inadequate for actually…making food in. As an avid home cook and brewer, there's just not too much you can do with those play-kitchens.

I've always looked at tiny homes as proof-of-concept homes. Some of their organizational and space saving ideas are really awesome. We live in an 800 square foot house right now (much to the concern of our realtor, and extended families…we apparently "needed" nothing shy of 1200 square feet). Our house feels downright palatial, but we already have incorporated a ton of elements that tiny homes to use save space. Living in one of those ultra-tiny homes is an extreme just like living in a giant, giant house is.

Also, there are many, many examples outside of those 'houses on trailers' in terms of tiny homes; here in Portland we have an entire building classification for them. Most ADU's are a bit bigger than the tiny homes, but not by much. They often are two stories tall so increase . Accessory Dwelling Units are becoming a big thing here, and some of them are incredibly livable (this one is my favorite) We purposely purchased our house with the construction of one of these in mind down the road. These small-houses, and the rather high demand for them, are a really good solution to combatting urban sprawl, and bringing rents down. The gap these fill in certain urban areas is very real, and really important even if you don't want to personally live in one. There's plenty of other people who do.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:20 AM on July 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


I would love to have a Tiny House.

In the backyard of my 3-bedroom Big House.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:21 AM on July 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


I like looking at tiny houses because they satisfy my desire for interior design porn without making me think "geez, I could never afford that house in a trillion years."
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:22 AM on July 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


Then there is this. You get a regular size home with a number of bedrooms and at least 2 bathrooms...have two kids....they grow...move out...now your needs change. What, stairs in the colonial and you have trouble with legs? Need ranch or something sans stairs. So you move back to something small till such time as a room in nursing home.
posted by Postroad at 9:22 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I recently went to the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation, and learned about the traditional living style of the Wampanoags. They lived in wetus, very crowded circular house-type things. Nah, the crowdedness wasn't an issue, the staff member said, because the house was only for sleeping and staying inside, maybe, for a major blizzard. Most of their life was outside. What about the cold? In addition to the deer pelts they wore, they also covered themselves in bear grease, which is a great insulator. Sounds good to me.
posted by Melismata at 9:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bitch, please. Try living in an NYC apartment and then tell me these houses are so tiny you can't believe people survive happily in them. I BELIEVE.

LOL

My advice when people complain about how small their Manhattan apartments are, is "consider a move to Brooklyn or Queens. Find something spacious. Preferably with more than one closet, a washer and drier on premises, and a decent-sized kitchen."

For you know... half the money if you're lucky.
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


And actually, I love the idea of ADUs. In LA, they're guest houses and pool houses, or vaguely-designated "front house" and "back house" in rental listings (this probably includes converted garages or mother-in-law apartments).
posted by Lyn Never at 9:29 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


i live in a promise chest floating in the gowanus
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


My feelings about tiny houses are like my feelings about fun-sized candy bars. They are cute and I see the appeal, but I would need 3 of them to actually satisfy me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [29 favorites]


My advice when people complain about how small their Manhattan apartments are, is "consider a move to Brooklyn or Queens. Find something spacious. Preferably with more than one closet, a washer and drier on premises, and a decent-sized kitchen."

Submitting my earlier comment about the size of my LES bedroom being the same size as my Brooklyn bedroom CLOSET as Exhibit A.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


250 sq foot is "tiny"?

"I don't see the point of these things when you could live in an apartment with real bathrooms and water and whatnot."

I'd love living in a 250 sq foot apartment or even a 150-200 sq foot apartment if:

a.) they existed

and

b.) they were inexpensive.

Unfortunately I don't think that exists.
posted by I-baLL at 9:36 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


When we bought our house, we specifically looked into the ability of the property to support an ADU. There's a shed in the backyard, that has an actual up-to-code foundation under it, instead of just a slab. Eventually, we'll convert it over to a small ADU for our other-coastal family members to come stay in. We might get it cleared for Airbnb style rental too.

There's some projects that the ROI on an ADU is something like 150-200% of building cost upon resale. I haven't seen too many numbers for renting them out though.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would love to have a Tiny House.

In the backyard of my 3-bedroom Big House.


We live in a Regular House That Is On The Small Side: a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom ranch with a useable basement room as well; I think it's about 1100 square feet. There are six of us. My partner and I share a small bedroom, the teenager has his own medium-sized room (it has to be big enough for his building projects), the two younger kids share the largest bedroom (because they, unlike us, have toys and stuff), and the 20-year-old lives in the basement.

It's hard to maintain order in a small house, we've found. Fortunately we're past the years of Peak Toys, but one problem when you have everything organized into its own cozy corner is that there are no odd little spare places where you can put things down out of the way: the new books somebody bought, or a gift you haven't figured out how to integrate yet. Because the whole place is like one of those slider puzzles, and if you're going to fit something new in, everything has to shift around a little bit. So anything you can't deal with right away ends up RIGHT IN YOUR SPACE. Sometimes when I'm at other people's houses and they seem very orderly, and then I notice that the room is big enough that they have, say, a line of old books and boxes of papers and a small unused lamp running along the bottom of a wall. Which is to say, they have, if anything, more extraneous crap than we do but they also have the space to set it aside in such a way that even sitting in the same room with it, it doesn't impinge.

But! To speak to the point above: I actually do sometimes fantasize about a tiny house in my backyard. Because we moved into this house when we had one kid, and proceeded to have two more and then take someone in, I've been slowly squeezed. My partner's and my bedroom is big enough for our bed and dressers, but there's no room for a desk in there. Many years ago I spent a month at a writing retreat where we all slept in the main house but each had a "writing shed" somewhere else on the property. The shed had a built-in desk running the width of it—maybe 7 or 8 feet?—with a window above it, and room for a glider-rocker in one corner. It was wired for electricity but had no plumbing. I think about having such a thing in my backyard, sometimes.
posted by not that girl at 9:38 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Meanwhile I have a couple hundred square feet in my apartment on Long Island, and that maxes out what I can afford on my stipend. Finding something around here that had a closet and a washer/drier would cost more than I earn in a month.

Still turns out I'm happier in a small space by myself than a bigger space with roommates. I like my dollhouse-sized apartment with no other humans allowed in. It is my PRIVATE SANCTUM.
posted by pemberkins at 9:38 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


And if you want to work from home over the net, you could get one of these
posted by Postroad at 9:38 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you share a wall with someone, it's not a house. It's an apartment, and anyone who has ever shared a wall with someone knows that almost any other type of living arrangement is preferable.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait...we're getting angry with people for not building more house than they need?

Um? Why, exactly?

Should we make fun of people who don't drive SUVs next?
posted by yoink at 9:42 AM on July 8, 2015 [20 favorites]


anyone who has ever shared a wall with someone knows that almost any other type of living arrangement is preferable.

Really? Anyone? You mean you, yourself, I think.
posted by Windigo at 9:42 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


It seems like tiny houses would be easy, if you opt out of the consumer frenzy that is contemporary life. I imagine, say, a hundred or 150 years ago, most people lived and were quite happy in what we would now consider "Tiny Houses."

My mother, growing up in the south, recalls her childhood being a time when physicians lived in normal, modest homes, rather than palatial dwellings or McMansions. She showed me a house where a famous architect lived in her town, and it was an ordinary home.

My father, in his early years, lived with his parents in what would now be considered a tiny, cramped cottage that remained on the property where my paternal grandparents built the house they lived in during my life, until they passed away (the cottage was finally destroyed I think). My grandfather's oft-repeated statement was "I was never happier than when we lived in that little house."

Our standards have changed, and are completely out of step with what is actually necessary. Now, new members of prestigious professions expect to have the elevated standard of living that a long-established doctor, architect, or lawyer in the 50's would have considered a perfectly decent standard of living at the height of their careers. The appellate judge I clerked for, who had been a name partner at one of the major white-shoe firms in my city, lived until his death in a house that would be considered very modest by today's lifestyle expectations.

I think much of what people think is "necessary" for living, is set by a standard of comparison with others ... there are social expectations for how one lives; how one lives influences how others perceive "how well you are doing"; no one wants to be perceived as not doing well in life; so one tries to live in a way that conforms to the widespread expectations for what is a reasonable life.

I always have been attracted by a small-scale, nomadic life. A friend of mine who went to Harvard Divinity School was telling me about some of the "characters" she knew who were among the students there. One of the students, she said, lived in his van. I found that really refreshing ... And there is a novel by Arthur Nersesian called Chinese Takeout, which I really enjoyed and highly recommend. The Manhattan-dwelling artist protagonist lives in his van, and I think it seems kind of cool.

I welcome this trend of tiny houses. I think any backlash, based on it being trendy, ignores the possibility that it can represent a real need and a legitimate lifestyle choice that really isn't new, but is coming to the fore now as a result of recent economic forces and a realization, by necessity, that radically stripped-down lifestyles are actually feasible.
posted by jayder at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


I just looked at this and thought, "add wheels, you've got a caravan." Right?

I can totally see myself renting one in a beauty spot for a rustic vacation. Living there for more than 96 hours at a time, though ... maybe not.
posted by cstross at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2015


Oh how badly I want a Tiny House TM But now that I have lived with my partner in an apartment three times the size of a Tiny House TM I know that we will have to buy two of them. Or possibly three. Which negates the whole point.

Well ... that would be just terrific. Three tiny houses == one modest compound.
posted by notyou at 9:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tiny houses are cute and fun to look at, and all, but the purpose of making them "aspirational" is to condition us all to the idea of minimizing our living space, in order to benefit landlords by increasing rents.

Bonus points for bitching about "selfish" people who "consume" more than their fair share of living space, because it hurts the planet.

Yay! We can all solve our housing problems by living in tiny houses! The next thing you know, a tiny house is all you can "afford" because it costs the same as an apartment in Manhattan.

I'm serious, BTW, I honestly link the promotion of this movement with political decisions intended to make housing less affordable; there was an article about this issue with London council housing on the green a couple of days ago.
posted by tel3path at 9:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [31 favorites]


Or like the lives of the millions of us who live in the original tiny houses, apartments.

I think I've written here before about the first place I lived that wasn't my parents' house or student accommodation. I had a Real Job and found the room by looking at the cards in a newsagent's window. It was above a tandoori restaurant and I suspect was not a legal dwelling; the upper level had been divided up into rooms using some sort of chipboard and the room on one side of mine was still semi-constructed, with woodchip all over the floor and cans of paint everywhere. Because the rooms had been sort of constructed around the furniture, they were really nifty. Mine was precisely the width of a double bed and a door and precisely the length of a double bed and a wardrobe. It had its own bathroom, the width of a shower stall. I could kick that shower from the toilet at the other end. There were no windows but there was a skylight. The heating didn't exactly work. I slept in a woollen hat. Nobody photographed me for a magazine.
posted by Acheman at 9:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


To put this in perspective, I say this as somebody who is in the top 25% of income earners in the UK, and were I to move out of the family home, I would be spending at least 50% of my take-home pay to get a room in a shared house with at least 3 other people.

Gaining enough access to the right sort of land to put up a tiny house would also be unaffordable in many parts of this country, assuming one could do so in accordance with planning laws.
posted by tel3path at 10:01 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll come back and read all the comments, but I lost it and started laughing out loud at this line:

“Are you shitting me? That place smells like a hot box of Mexican food farts.”
posted by chatongriffes at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


My ideal room setup is walls lined with books and art, furniture grouped in one or two sections, and wide areas in between to walk in, free of clutter. Why? Because I am a champion toe-stubber and broke my toe doing so at least once. Things I am also good at: hitting my head on doorframes and low ceilings, falling both up and down stairs, and slamming doors on my fingers.

Which makes places like these not so much Tiny Homes as Tiny Deathraps.
posted by emjaybee at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine who went to Harvard Divinity School was telling me about some of the "characters" she knew who were among the students there. One of the students, she said, lived in his van.

Again, this is fairly easy to do if you're childless, don't have aging parents to care for, and are either single or have a partner that's also dedicated to a semi-homeless / nomadic lifestyle. Otherwise, it's very hard to impossible.

My grandfather's oft-repeated statement was "I was never happier than when we lived in that little house."

It's worth considering that the suburban dream didn't evolve out of some mindless dedication to crass consumerism, at least not initially. Multi-generational living in apartments and small houses is taxing, especially once you add in the powerful generation gap that was emerging between many in the first large, middle class generation of suburban settlers in the postwar era and their immigrant parents and grandparents. This was a product of a number of factors - public schooling that focused on "Americanization", strong anti-German/Italian sentiment during WW2, baseline US ethnocentrism, and a shift from cultures defined by privation and cultural isolation to one where the 2nd and 3rd generations of immigrant families were moving into the American cultural mainstream (for better or worse). I'm in my 40s and recall my 2nd generation Italian American grandfather talking about this, and how happy he was to put some distance between himself and the cramped, crowded city ghetto he grew up in.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


I see some of the charm of a Tiny House, but I am never again living my adult life without at least two cats, nor do I wish to live right on top of the litterboxen. So, no tiny house for me. Were it not for the pets I could see potentially living in a Semi-Tiny house. I do need some small space with a door to retreat to occasionally to be all on my lonesome, but the necessary size of that space dwindles the more my bookshelves convert to digital.
posted by Stacey at 10:06 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wait...we're getting angry with people for not building more house than they need?

Nobody is getting angry. A few of us are going "...Really?" though.
posted by bondcliff at 10:06 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I like the looks and the general idea of tiny houses, but for two problems: I need space for my books ('cause it ain't a home if there's not at least one wall of books) plus this cranky getting-stiff fat old broad can't see climbing a ladder to a loft bed as very feasible --- thirty/forty years ago, sure, but now? Nope, not gonna happen.
posted by easily confused at 10:13 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a tiny house village expanding in Madison. I think the novelty factor is part of it, but this village has a communal kitchen & garden (or at least planned).
posted by worstname at 10:15 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Like the extreme minimalist I heard interviewed on NPR once, who owns only one hundred (100) items and borrows the rest of what she needs from friends. Can you imagine having that moochy friend who's always hitting you up for clothes, tools, kitchen utensils, toiletries, and god knows what else?! Or worse, being the person living in a tiny house with no possessions and getting to know the grinding indignity of borrowing basic things on a constant basis. No thank you!

There is just nothing like someone who is lecturing you for owning a washer and dryer while they're doing their laundry in them.

I've known some people who were actually poor or nomadic, but they never held up their lifestyles as the ideal. And I knew a guy who lived in a yurt without electricity who was pretty self-sufficient. He was also an outdoorsy kind of guy who grew up in an extreme hippy family, and had all kinds of skills, as well as access to his parents' property to use their shop and their kitchen. And he rarely bathed, had a funny stringy little beard, and wore ponchos. Great guy, but his was not the lifestyle that I see in those cute articles about little houses and minimalist lifestyles. He didn't have shiny white things.

But the other type of person I've known who claimed to be paring down their lifestyles or whatever were SUPER SUPER materialistic. It just just serial is all. They use something and then get rid of it when they're done, because they don't have the room (physical or ideological) to keep things they use less frequently. They don't have storage space or space to repair or build anything or manage anything that was suboptimal for their immediate needs. No space to store off-season or little used clothing. To store bulk groceries. Little room to even store extra blankets. Their food options are pretty limited. Either they're eating out all the time, subsisting on an extremely limited diet, or some combination. They almost always have high end electronics that they replace on a regular basis. Not owning things is expensive.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


Tiny houses are cute, and people like them the way they like miniatures. I love the tiny house movement as a response to absurdly large houses. I believe family life will mostly be better if the kids don't have tvs and computers in their rooms, if life is lived in the living room, kitchen and outdoors. New houses are built to be sold, not to be lived in. Heating and air conditioning enormous houses is kind of obscene. I live in a 1,000 sf house, currently alone but my son, daughter-in-law and grandbaby will be here soon. It will be slightly crowded, and would require a lot of work to be a long term setup. But my next door neighbors raised 3 kids in a house the same size.

The idea of tiny houses as an answer to housing always annoys me. You can build a tiny house pretty cheap, or you can get a trailer of some sort, but nobody ever talks about the infrastructure. You'll want cable, though over-the-air tv is not bad. You'll want broadband. You need electricity, though you can actually do okay with solar, which has dropped in price a lot. You absolutely need water and especially, sewer. If you don't have a good sewage system, please don't live uphill or upstream of me. I'm fond of the intrepid souls who keep their environmental footprints smallish, and who do so thoughtfully.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd love living in a 250 sq foot apartment or even a 150-200 sq foot apartment if: a.) they existed and b.) they were inexpensive. Unfortunately I don't think that exists.

You want an aPodment. They are just about that size. They come with "bathroom" that is a toilet in a sliver of space with a door and a kind of a hostel kitchen that is a sink, a microwave, and a dorm fridge. There's enough counter space to have a hot plate and a toaster oven, but not at the same time. The building also includes one full communal kitchen that you could cook a Thanksgiving dinner in, plus the cleaning service that cleans all the shared spaces twice a day. In a neighborhood where studios are $1500+ and 1-bedrooms are $2000+, an aPodment rents for $650/mo.
posted by KathrynT at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Speaking as A Guy That Has Way Too Much Stuff, I admire the ethos behind this choice to live a simple, minimalist lifestyle, but there is no way I/we could live like this. We have teens, for one thing, and they need spaces to which they can each retreat. Plus, I have all the crap that comes from livign in suburbia: A garage full of tools, truck parts, and bikes, and a house crammed with music gear, camping gear, and books. I mean, I suppose I could live in a tiny house if it were parked on top of an empty missile silo, or served as the outbuilding to a hobbit hole, but of course that at odds with the intent of this sort of housing choice.

I am at the opposite end of this: give me a modest home and three outbuildings, and I can probably make that work.
posted by mosk at 10:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Apartments are not the original tiny houses. TRAILERS are the original tiny houses.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:18 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


They are like houseboats without the boat part...
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


immlass: "The thing I always notice about tiny houses is that they might be great for 20somethings but my old achey and mildly disabled ass is not climbing a ladder to go to bed over the kitchen sink."

There's actually a sub-movement within the tiny house movement of building tiny homes for older people, that rely far less on climbing up ladders.

fimbulvetr: "Every time I see a story on these things, people are either living in the middle of nowhere, which means driving everywhere, or on the good graces of family or friends that will let them park their Fancy Shack in the backyard. "

As noted above, increasing urban and suburban density with ADUs in the back yard is great! A lot of tiny house people pay rent to use someone's back yard space that is otherwise just going to have to be mowed. Another big subset is people in their 20s on the adventure/outdoorsy circuit in one fashion or another -- teaching Outward Bound in the summer and skiing all winter; lifeguarding in the summer and working at resorts in the winter; running summer camps in the summer and teaching yoga in the winter. They haul their tiny house to where they're working for the season and don't have the trouble of moving and finding an apartment, and a lot of resorts and camps will let them hook up on the property. And there's definitely a resale market for tiny homes when you're done with that itinerant lifestyle.

There's also a movement in some East Coast cities where a group of tiny home owners get together and find a vacant lot that's not attractive for redevelopment -- maybe it's mired in litigation, in a bad neighborhood -- and they make an agreement with the owner and the city where they park 3 to 5 tiny houses on the lot and pay a minimal rent for it (so it's generating some income rather than none). They commit to shopping locally and often work with the city to turn nearby city-owned property into a micropark or community garden. (Mostly they are avid bikers and use a combination of bikes and transit.) Then, when the property's problems are solved and the owner is ready to build an actual building, they all hitch up their tiny houses to a rented pickup and move them to a new vacant lot. I think this is a GREAT tool for cities, having tiny migratory dwellings that can help stabilize a neighborhood, which are owned by people with disposable income who commit to spending money locally and increasing the tax base, which requires no long-term commitment or building of permanent structures! Who can go from underdeveloped place to underdeveloped place! If I were a city councilor locally I'd be ALL OVER getting tiny house regulations passed, especially to allow collectives to temporarily use disused properties.

Also I love tiny homes because they appeal to my desire to have everything in the world fit together like Tetris pieces.

And I agree they're most practical when you use your home primarily for sleeping -- which is why I think they're popular among the outdoorsy set and retirees and so on -- I lived in a dorm room smaller than these (but no kitchen, obvs) and it was lovely and I fit a LOT OF STUFF in that dorm room. Since I was always out at class, parties, work, the dining hall, or the common areas, it was solely for sleeping and being by myself (studying, watching TV, reading). It felt cozy, not small.

I also do appreciate the smaller appliances and so on that this "trend" is slowly bringing to market ... I live in a smaller home, and when we renovated the bathroom recently, we were disappointed by the very few choices for smaller-than-standard sinks and sink cabinets, because the bathroom is baaaaaaaarely big enough to be a bathroom and a smaller sink would have been helpful. Smaller furniture and fixtures makes our small home a lot more liveable for a family of four in a two-bedroom house, but it can be really difficult to find things that scale to our 1950 house ... It seems like everything's built for McMansions these day: giant plush couches, expansive bathroom vanities, huge kitchen appliances. It is sometimes very difficult to find something that isn't low-grade small-apartment quality appliances or Ikea furniture. (I mean, I love my Ikea, but as I get older I sometimes feel like, I should be able to buy a sturdier couch in a fancier fabric if I want to, without it literally eating my entire living room.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:21 AM on July 8, 2015 [20 favorites]


And if you want to work from home over the net, you could get one of these

This is cool.
Over the next couple of years I will be moving into some sort of tiny abode. I may build one of these house or I may just get an old trailer and renovate it. I've debated about setting up a separate tiny office structure as well. Depending on what happens I may just truck in pre-builts because it's just easier for ease of building and dealing with zoning restrictions.

Living like this will work fine for me because it will be on property with a house already. So I guess we'll be creating a sort of compound thing. It's a family property. It's basically like creating an unattached suite or apartment. Still get the benefits of a big house, extra storage, laundry and a larger cooking area for bigger things.

I think a group of these sorts of tiny houses with some sort of central communal space would be cool. Not that it's a new idea or anything. People have been living in small, more private spaces and bigger communal spaces for work and play arrangements for millenia from villages to modern day apartment complexes.
posted by Jalliah at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's also a movement in some East Coast cities where a group of tiny home owners get together and find a vacant lot that's not attractive for redevelopment -- maybe it's mired in litigation, in a bad neighborhood -- and they make an agreement with the owner and the city where they park 3 to 5 tiny houses on the lot and pay a minimal rent

I'm genuinely curious... do you have examples of this actually happening?
posted by bondcliff at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems like everything's built for McMansions these day: giant plush couches, expansive bathroom vanities, huge kitchen appliances.

I live in a ca. 1950s apartment building and have the same issue. My neighbors let me go through their apartment once when when I locked myself out, and their living room floor was 75% covered by what appeared to be an enormous L-shaped sofa-recliner thing. That is, it looked enormous in the space -- it would look perfectly normal in any new construction house from 1980 on.

I have nothing against small living spaces -- I lived in something smaller than all but the smallest of the IKEA display units for 7 years or thereabouts, so I've done it. But it's extremely difficult to entertain or have more than 1-2 people visit you, and eventually that starts wearing, or it did for me.
posted by pie ninja at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious... do you have examples of this actually happening?

One group tried something like it for a bit in Washington, DC. It collapsed in late 2014, mostly due to some zoning issues and seemingly haphazard planning, building, execution.

It's rebooted as a kind of demonstration project.
posted by notyou at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brocktoon: "If you share a wall with someone, it's not a house. It's an apartment"

Row homes / townhouses aren't houses? What about duplexes?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:34 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


bondcliff: "do you have examples of this actually happening?"

Boneyard Studios in DC is one example; most of those units were used as artist studios by the owners rather than full-time homes, though. IIRC they just recently moved out of their first space, which is being redeveloped, and the folks staying around DC are temporarily in people's backyards and others have struck out to live/do art/work in other parts of the country. Last I looked they were having meetings with city officials and private landowners to find their next space. The first lot was very odd-shaped and that was part of the problem with its redevelopment.

It also included one of my absolute favorite tiny homes, the Minim House, which has the bed on a platform that slides under a raised "office" area and a crosswise kitchen and feels waaaaaaay more spacious than most tiny homes as a result.

(I'm kind-of a tiny house blog addict.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:34 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


pie ninja: "But it's extremely difficult to entertain or have more than 1-2 people visit you, and eventually that starts wearing, or it did for me."

Yeah, our little 1950 house makes this difficult, but we make up for it by doing virtually all of our entertaining in the summertime when we can use our backyard/garden, which we designed with outdoor entertaining in mind. (Like, we picked a potting bench that doubles as a bar!) All our friends know we throw like three parties per summer and host virtually all playdates, but nobody gets to come over in the winter when we're all sitting on top of each other.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


cstross: "I just looked at this and thought, "add wheels, you've got a caravan." Right?"

They remind me of the converted caravan in Danny, Champion of the World.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:39 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's also a movement in some East Coast cities where a group of tiny home owners get together and find a vacant lot

It is the sewage, water and sanitation that always gets me with these... how does this work in a city without city sewage and water hookup? All of the other options - chemical, dry, composting, etc still leave the problem of where to dispose of the waste at the end of the day on a vacant lot in a city.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:42 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a neighborhood where studios are $1500+ and 1-bedrooms are $2000+, an aPodment rents for $650/mo.

Sadly, aPodments do not exist in San Francisco, and if any ever get built they are going to cost more than twice that amount. When I looked at an equivalently-sized in-law space last month in the Inner Sunset, it was $1300/mo and at least 15 other people applied for it during the 30 minutes when I was at the open house. In line with this, it's claimed that one set of under-construction 174-sq-ft apartments here will rent for $1350. And those look great, I'd totally live there, but I'm also willing to bet $5 that they're not going to be $1350/mo for very long, if at all.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


We live in a small 1950's 2-bedroom house (under 900 sq ft), so our answer to furnishing it is often to buy antiques. Most modern stuff is just too damn big. You can get small modern furniture and appliances, but you have to be prepared to put up with low quality apartment grade stuff or to pay a massive premium for "euro" stuff.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:45 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am looking forward to the end of Peak Toys however -- two little kids sure can take up a lot of space for their size. Sometimes the place looks like it is carpeted in lego.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:46 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like looking at the pictures of the tiny houses because there are so many different approaches on how to maximize space. Sure some may not take, but there are always a few neat ideas on how to use the space in your non-tiny house more efficiently.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:47 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Those houses seem great for people whose lives consist of eating, sleeping, going to work, and operating a laptop computer. They would suck for any kind of creative hobby. I need space for tools, parts, art supplies, musical instruments, big speakers, and a table that I can leave strewn with work-in-progress for a while.
posted by scose at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


My advice when people complain about how small their Manhattan apartments are, is "consider a move to Brooklyn or Queens. Find something spacious. Preferably with more than one closet, a washer and drier on premises, and a decent-sized kitchen."


Dude, yes. I made the move to Brooklyn years ago (duplex and a yard for the price of a Manhattan studio and a more annoying train ride to work, what what), so I wouldn't say I'm complaining so much as saying, "Check it out, there're whole cities of evidence that a desire to live somewhere plus a tiny bit of ingenuity can overcome a ton of practical reasons it shouldn't be possible."

But then I got checked by people pointing out trailers. Way better evidence than apartments.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Micro apartments in Boston: "A 685-square-foot 1-BR is asking $2,950 a month..."
posted by Melismata at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Basically the Tiny House trend is the suburban/rural version of Apartment Therapy's Small Cool contest (particularly because on AT everyone's always like, oh, I made/scrounged all the interesting furniture in this apartment so you can totally get this look on a budget!!! if you have more free time than average and make your #1 hobby/job scrounging, building, and/or spraying for bedbugs when you inevitably pick up something infested, because you only buy second hand and you live in NYC). It's aspirational, but with a veneer of plausibility, i.e. crack for the middle-class.

I still read AT tho, and I plan on looking at the Smallest Coolest winners a bunch while I decorate my studio w/ IKEA flatpacks. To steal a line of Margaret Cho's, it's like eating while watching the Food Channel.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:51 AM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


fimbulvetr: "It is the sewage, water and sanitation that always gets me with these... how does this work in a city without city sewage and water hookup?"

I think you just pay for the RV service guy to just come and pump out your toilet and refill your water tanks. That's already a thing that happens, they just come out to your urban house with your RV in the driveway or to the rural hunting property where you've permanently parked it, and they "do your tanks."

Some people build their tiny houses with city or RV hookups in mind; others build to be as off-grid as possible. On a lot of people's tiny house pages, they have a whole section about utility hookups, and builder sites often offer you several options.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:52 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "On a lot of people's tiny house pages, they have a whole section about utility hookups, and builder sites often offer you several options."

Not that I have a serious problem with losing entire days to exhaustively examining other people's tiny houses or anything.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:54 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


In Boston, apodments are called micro-apartments and are only approved for the Innovation District. Most of them don't post prices online but a 2013 listing said they were going for $2,299 a month. Almost certainly higher by now.

Outdoor space would definitely make a difference with making a smaller apartment livable. My previous tiny apartment came with a live-in landlord. During the showing he'd say things like "Oh, yeah, you can totally use the deck! Bring people over any time!" but as soon as you signed the lease, it became Very Clear that he didn't mean that. Each person to move into the downstairs apartment while I was there tried using the deck once... and then never again.

I solved the couch-scale problem (in my current apartment... old apartment was too small for a couch plus a bed) by finding a vintage piece. However, that's not something I consider repeatable -- finding a comfortable vintage piece I liked and with cushions that could be fully removed (to prevent bed bug infestation) -- that was sheer good fortune.
posted by pie ninja at 10:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not that I have a serious problem with losing entire days to exhaustively examining other people's tiny houses or anything.

Are you sure you aren't my wife?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there some kind of Tiny House evangelical movement where people are pressuring others to live in these tiny houses?

If so, they're about the least effective evangelists imaginable. Square footage per person in American homes has been steadily increasing for decades. By and large people buy and build more house than they need by increasingly extravagant margins (most people I know actually "live" in just a few rooms in their houses and have several rooms they almost never enter; and I'm not even talking about people who own "McMansions"). I can completely understand the appeal of living in a space which is strictly no more than you actually need.
posted by yoink at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The only possessions I own currently are clothes, with my two bicycles, three guitars, two amplifiers and small desk all in storage. I could easily live in a 150 to 250 sq. ft. space with no issue, but they're expensive, and I can't afford it. I don't know anything about living in NYC except that friends have told me they pay more in rent for a studio around that size than I did for an entire attic space in a 4 bedroom house with a nice backyard, kitchen, washer and dryer, big porch, and my best friends as roommates. There's simply no way I'll be able afford to live by myself ever again. I'm 26, I don't make enough money to spend $1000/mo for a tiny studio. It's cool, I'd be down to live in a tiny house or a tiny apartment in a great neighborhood (furnace.heart posted some tiny homes that're in NE Portland up thread, and as much as those are "nice neighborhoods" they have issues that are mostly me being emotional and nostalgic), and I'm not an ultra minimalist at all, I just have never been able to afford to buy things to fill up space even with a decent paying food service job that included great tips. I'm also too mentally incapable of working ludicrous hours like a lot of my friends in NYC do just to afford a small apartment. I don't know how people do it. I don't mean this offensively, I'm literally in awe of my friends in those places.

If a tiny house on 22nd & Alberta in Portland was $400-$500/mo and roughly 200 sq. ft. I'd rent it out for sure, but my first studio apartment at 400 sq. ft. was $600/mo right off PSU campus, and even though that seemed a little big for me I know there are places in the Pearl that are smaller and twice the cost (my friend and his wife are living in one currently for $1300/mo and it's roughly the same size as my first studio). Shouldn't a 200 sq. ft. place be cheap? Like, $300/mo? I have friends in Midtown Sacramento living in 3 BR houses where each person is paying $350-$450/mo (smallest room to largest). I'll have to do some research I guess. The whole tiny house thing within an urban environment, or gentrified neighborhood, sounds like a scam, when it definitely should not be. It's one of those things I project my insecure stereotypes on, like I can totally imagine a bunch of techies moving in to Albina and paying $700/mo for 300 sq. ft. tiny homes, and then rent still increases for everyone because suddenly it's super cool to live in this tiny modernist space.

Also, this is a total bullshit paranoid thought on my end, but I can't help but imagine that at some point we'll be seeing something akin to trailer parks, but with tiny homes and gardens of chard and kale, and those will be a sign of wealth and privilege while trailer parks are basically the same concept but looked down upon. It's almost a hippie commune, but filled with yuccies instead of hippies or "white trash".

The first person I knew who lived in a tiny home was my uncle in Bunnell, FL. He put a trailer on 15ish acres of land. Had some of the best times hanging out there with my dad and him and my cousins.
posted by gucci mane at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think you just pay for the RV service guy to just come and pump out your toilet and refill your water tanks. That's already a thing that happens, they just come out to your urban house with your RV in the driveway or to the rural hunting property where you've permanently parked it, and they "do your tanks."

Some people build their tiny houses with city or RV hookups in mind; others build to be as off-grid as possible. On a lot of people's tiny house pages, they have a whole section about utility hookups, and builder sites often offer you several options.


When looking at trailers and what sewage/blackwater options would be for some reno build it's basically what RV's do. I could get someone to come and pump, or do a portable thing where you take the container to the dump like you would garbage or build a hookup to the septic system. Depending on bylaws grey water systems are possible for everything else.
posted by Jalliah at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


MoonOrb, I think this is a more general issue of someone says "X is out of the ordinary and X makes me happy" and everyone hears "If you don't X then you're not as cool, healthy, smart, or virtuous as I am."
posted by Monochrome at 10:59 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I live in a house that's really small but probably doesn't meet the criteria for 'tiny.' It's a 700-square foot 2-bedroom, 1-bath cottage on a road that dead-ends into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our family consists of me and my husband, plus our two medium-sized dogs (24 and 43 pounds, respectively.) We regularly host houseguests throughout the summer.

Our happiness is dependent on constant clutter reduction. I try to keep a rule: for any $volume of stuff that comes home, the same $volume or more needs to leave. It doesn't always work and my husband has definite packrat tendencies, but we do okay with it. Our mortgage is about $375/month and our utility bills are commensurate.

I love reading about Tiny Houses because of the clever design and use-of-space ideas but there is for sure a weird moralistic tone to a lot of Tiny House evangelism. I live in the country so I am bound to my car. I have to drive everywhere and my road is downright hostile to pedestrian and bicycle traffic (it's narrow with no shoulder, curbs, sidewalks, or even painted stripes.) My house doesn't consume much in the way of resources, but my lifestyle surely does.
posted by workerant at 11:02 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


MoonOrb, I think there's a big difference between "derision of Tiny Housers" and some mild backlash against the Tiny House as a larger phenomenon; if you read home design-ish blogs/magazines, there's absolutely a lot of ink/pixels spilled on romanticizing and, to be honest, marketing these kinds of living situations (there seem to be a lot of companies whose business model is predicated on building prefab Tiny Houses, for example, and often you'll see blog posts that are kind of thinly veiled advertisements for them, whether intentionally or not). So I think it's healthy and normal to push back a little and try to understand where this is coming from and who benefits by it, even if it's not the majority of the population who are interested in living in one in the first place. But I don't see anyone here seriously arguing something like "people who live in tiny houses are such ableist jerks" or "there's nothing problematic about suburban sprawl with hugely overbuilt houses" or whatever.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah I think a lot of my annoyance with the tiny house movement is that it seems inevitably juxtaposed against all the other poor people, who live in trailers or studios or maybe a 1-bedroom, but with a few kids, but those people's houses are dingy and unaesthetic and we should pity them.

I mean, people do the best they can with what they have and that's great, but I don't understand why if for whatever reason you don't have the assets to make a tiny house, there is a lot more cultural scorn for living in a trailer park or a "shitty" apartment with a rent-a-center sofa because you can't afford an Ikea one. Why aren't there buzzfeed articles about how poor people use the space in their 1-bedroom with 2 adults and 2 kids?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:04 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is there some kind of Tiny House evangelical movement where people are pressuring others to live in these tiny houses?

Visit Asheville. If it's not a tiny house, it's an intentional community (google "Earthaven Ecovillage"). If it's not an intentional community, it's a yurt. If it's not a yurt, it's self-sustaining this or that, which is good and noble!, but not for everyone. Sometimes I feel like a yuppie square when I decline homemade kombucha or various wild-caught meats (raccoon, for example). The intentional community/sustainability/minimal living/aspirational tiny home vibe is strong here and while nobody is evangelizing real aggressively, it's uncomfortable at times for us squares with 9-5 jobs and student loan debt and a more pragmatic bent.
posted by witchen at 11:06 AM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


MoonOrb, I think this is a more general issue of someone says "X is out of the ordinary and X makes me happy" and everyone hears "If you don't X then you're not as cool, healthy, smart, or virtuous as I am."

I think it is more in response to people explicitly saying that non-tiny houses are bad and unenlightened:

"I feel sorry for you with your big houses, big bills, big upkeep and big taxes."

"Most people I know are heavily into the ‘stuff’ culture so they are not only amazed that I have so little, but they look at me like they almost feel sorry for me. Actually, it’s the other way around…I feel sorry for them! I think all their clutter is mostly what weighs them down…"

"I feel sorry for people who can’t park their cars in their garages because of the huge piles of crap in there; you KNOW they don’t use any of it!"

I like looking at pictures of tiny houses, but I have to avoid the blog posts/comments that go with them, because, you know, no zealot like a convert.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:11 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Not sure if I missed people commenting about it already.

A big, big draw to 'tiny housing' in the places I've looked at it is simply the ease of getting something set-up. A good majority of these things are portable. They're not always portable for portabilities sake. They portable because that makes them classified as a trailer so they're less expensive to build and have heaps less hoops to jump through.

Where I live anything above 10sq needs lots of permitting to build. We have more then enough space to add more room to the house but what a headache. Just driving in a new 'apartment' and hooking it up is way appealing. I will likely end up with a pre-built trailer even though building my own mini house on wheel is quite appealing from a style point of view.
posted by Jalliah at 11:13 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]




There's actually a sub-movement within the tiny house movement of building tiny homes for older people, that rely far less on climbing up ladders.

This is a good thing! I like littler houses even if they're not tiny, but a lot of the photogenic tiny houses I've seen blogged and Facebooked and the like range from indifferent to hostile for folks with even minor disabilities. Obviously a wheelchair is going to rule you out of a lot of tiny housing (not much vertical usage) but I've always thought there have to be ways to do tiny housing that people with creaky joints can enjoy.
posted by immlass at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think people should always feel that their lives are better than others. If not, then work on improving your own life! Sure, some things are difficult to change, but moving from a bigger house to a smaller house is a fairly easy thing to change.

We just moved into 400 sq ft (our compromise between a tiny house and a "full size" house) and it's true that I cannot escape from the farts unless I run into the bathroom and turn on the fan... but it takes a huge financial burden off of our shoulders and it makes us so much happier. Plus, I know exactly where things are... and if I don't, it doesn't take me weeks to find it. (But maybe that's a problem unique to me.)

We still have books on a bookshelf, an upright piano... all the "normal" stuff that people expect. Our bed is in a loft though.

Do I think it's a permanent solution? Not if we plan to have kids sometime in the future. But then we can rent it out. (It's built as an MIL unit.) Is it always clean? Hardly! But it is ours, easy to maintain, and we love living in it.
posted by ethidda at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of my annoyance with the tiny house movement is that it seems inevitably juxtaposed against all the other poor people, who live in trailers or studios or maybe a 1-bedroom

I've never read a high-end design piece on a "tiny house" whose point of reference or contrast was mocking the cluelessness of people who live in trailers. The contrasts that I see coming up over and over are with people who live in "normal" housing. Certainly there's some smugness there, occasionally, (though often the family being interviewed will be emphasizing how much they cut costs over a typical house).

I think the idea that the Tiny House movement is somehow about distinguishing yourself from "the poors" who live in trailer homes needs some evidence to back it up.
posted by yoink at 11:19 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


a fiendish thingy I've definitely seen those "anti-stuff" people in the wild and they are insufferable. I literally for the past 5 years have lived with only clothing (and not enough to fill a small closet, either), a laptop computer, a bicycle, and some guitars and amps. That's nothing. Ideally I'd make enough money to afford a decent TV, have some gaming consoles (because I haven't gamed in over 5 years!), and a dresser for my clothes. That's it. That doesn't take up much room. I want a nice, secure, affordable living arrangement with some stuff in an urban environment where I can get around myself or via public transport. I've had anti-stuff people tell me I should get a folding bike. Like, my 58cm track bike is too big? I can't just put a mount in a convenient place on a wall to hang it? I have to get rid of the bike I've owned and maintained for 8 years? Jfc. And apparently I'm only allowed to own a certain amount of clothing, so then I look the same week after week.

Ugh, give me a break. I'm not trying to own a mansion full of stuff, I just want a comfortable, leisurely lifestyle that's affordable.
posted by gucci mane at 11:21 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


And then there's this type of anti-stuff person.
posted by Melismata at 11:26 AM on July 8, 2015


"Tiny houses are cute and fun to look at, and all, but the purpose of making them "aspirational" is to condition us all to the idea of minimizing our living space, in order to benefit landlords by increasing rents.

Bonus points for bitching about "selfish" people who "consume" more than their fair share of living space, because it hurts the planet.

Yay! We can all solve our housing problems by living in tiny houses! The next thing you know, a tiny house is all you can "afford" because it costs the same as an apartment in Manhattan.

I'm serious, BTW, I honestly link the promotion of this movement with political decisions intended to make housing less affordable; there was an article about this issue with London council housing on the green a couple of days ago.
"

This doesn't make much sense. First, the "bitching" part is ironic since you're complaining about people wanting to live in smaller spaces because that's all they need or want. It's "aspirational" to those of us who live in rooms that, for example, have roommates and live in our own bedrooms and just lack a private bathroom and kitchen.

Second. how is this going to raise rents? If small apartments become more common then they'll drop in price since you can fit a lot more of them in a building. How will rent go up if more small apartments and houses are created?
posted by I-baLL at 11:28 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Great article if I could get past all the unnecessary cursing. Unfortunately, I can't.
posted by harrietthespy at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2015


I'm surprised there's so much discomfort with the tiny house idea. I've always loved the tiny house thing because, as a late gen-xer/early millenial in a not-particularly-remunerative field, that literally feels like my only hope of ever owning my own home. Since I have little job security, the idea of being able to move my house to the next job market is also hugely appealing.

To me, the tiny house concept is less about any kind of hipster cachet and more about adjusting our standards of living to be cheaper and more mobile out of pure economic necessity. It wouldn't be particularly surprising if people tried to put on some airs about how they really prefer the small house, "no really I prefer less space", but even when they're telling the truth, it should probably be heard in the tone of someone saying "no really, I prefer to sip on this same PBR all night". Most of this trend is clearly economically-driven and has a lot more to do with falling incomes and job insecurity than with hipsters.
posted by dialetheia at 11:31 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I like the concept of tiny houses - and the concept of 'origami' or 'swiss-army' apartments. It's like you take a murphy bed, but it's a murphy everything:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RbxkrmuQ5E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYV0qATsyts

But then I also know I'd: 1.) break something 2.) go insane 3.) be crushed to death as I attempt to slide the bedroom wall into the kitchen
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


immlass: "Obviously a wheelchair is going to rule you out of a lot of tiny housing (not much vertical usage) but I've always thought there have to be ways to do tiny housing that people with creaky joints can enjoy."

Here's one I saw recently that was built by an older couple (husband was a cabinetmaker so VERY WELL FINISHED inside!), who used a murphy bed so they don't have to climb up and included two bump-outs that expand when parked, so they can have Lay-Z-Boy style recliners (and a big closet)! They included a clever grab bar to help get up the couple of steps to the bathroom, and an "escape hatch" rather than escape windows since they figured they were too old to climb out a window in an emergency.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


maybe you can just hose the whole thing down, contents included, to wash everything.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


i live in a promise chest floating in the gowanus

Luxury.
posted by The Bellman at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


I've mostly converted to Kindle. Mostly. But I still have a few hundred books. Where do you put the books in a TinyHouse?
posted by Ambient Echo at 11:59 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it me or this conversation starting to sound more and more like we need four Yorkshiremen involved?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where do you put the books in a TinyHouse?

Secret compartments.
posted by maxsparber at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


This doesn't make much sense. First, the "bitching" part is ironic since you're complaining about people wanting to live in smaller spaces because that's all they need or want. It's "aspirational" to those of us who live in rooms that, for example, have roommates and live in our own bedrooms and just lack a private bathroom and kitchen.

I'm not complaining about people wanting to live in smaller spaces because that's all they need or want. I think that's great.

What I'm complaining about is the promotion of the idea that these small spaces are all people should need or want and that wanting more space is either destructive or a form of keeping up with the Joneses.

Second. how is this going to raise rents? If small apartments become more common then they'll drop in price since you can fit a lot more of them in a building. How will rent go up if more small apartments and houses are created?

Because the more small spaces become available, the more people will be expected to live in smaller spaces because larger spaces are more than they "need" and the more larger spaces - such as existing apartments - will be subdivided into smaller and smaller apartments for the same proportionate rent.
posted by tel3path at 12:10 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


LOL, maxsparber :)

I have about 750 sq feet of apartment now, and that's about right for me. I do wish I had a garage, but I've just joined Houston's maker space, and hopefully that'll let me scratch the crafting itch without buying more space.
posted by Ambient Echo at 12:12 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there some kind of Tiny House evangelical movement where people are pressuring others to live in these tiny houses?

There is a kind of weird defensiveness a lot of people get about people who make choices that fall outside the mainstream. The kind of thing where people think that vegans or people who use open source OSes or who don't have TVs are all tireless, judgmental evangelists about it, even when they aren't. So there's probably some of that kind of kneejerk reaction involved. People assume they're being judged based solely on the choice itself.

However, there are evangelists among all those groups. I've never personally encountered someone who was specifically a small house evangelist, but I don't know that I've known people who were small housers even, really. I have known several people who were evangelical about minimalism in its other forms, though, sometimes to the point of hostility. Go find any forum where people discuss hoarding, and you'll find a subset of people who consider any level of clutter to be a symptom of an illness or rampant consumerism or something, and who will very much evangelize about minimalism, seemingly oblivious to the wasteful aspects of their chosen lifestyle.

My mom used to assume that if she didn't know what something was, it was garbage. That's why she threw away those stupid paintchips that were cluttering up an otherwise nice, empty drawer in my guestroom, for example.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:18 PM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ambient Echo: "But I still have a few hundred books. Where do you put the books in a TinyHouse?"

This one has a small bookcase and (last photo) two long shelves along the "ceiling" height of the house, one of which is full of books. Here's another with ceiling shelves.

Here's a grad student who has a pretty big collection of books (for a tiny house) tucked under the ladder to the loft.

I'm looking for a particular one I really liked that was intended for college students and had great book storage, but my search results are getting mucked up by students building them as class projects. :(

But the two most popular methods are a bookcase built in either under the ladder or into a wall, or a long shelf running along at ceiling height.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like I said.
posted by maxsparber at 12:22 PM on July 8, 2015


Oh, excellent, Eyebrows McGee. That grad student, in particular, has about the amount of books that I still have as print - I have one Ikea tall Billy shelf full left after my purge. So maybe only a hundred ish? Something like that.
posted by Ambient Echo at 12:28 PM on July 8, 2015


Ugh, this actually hits really close to home for me. Not because I live in a tiny house, but because I just signed a lease on a tiny apartment in one of the most expensive housing markets. I'd love to adopt some kind of minimalist joy at taking a 450 square foot living space, but please forgive me if I can't. Maybe it's very different if you're in the middle of the woods, or something, but I'm sorry, I need to be near public transit so I can get to campus. Maybe I should be willing to part with my worldly goods, but I want to hold on to my musical instruments because they bring me joy.

I know I'm not talking about a tiny house. But the minimalist ideals, as wonderful as they sound on paper, aren't for everyone and shouldn't be. I mean, look, an alternative lifestyle is great if you choose it. Not so great if you have no other options.
posted by teponaztli at 12:28 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love looking at Tiny Houses, maybe I should say. I don't want one, but I do love looking at them. The 08 crash pushed me out of my 300 square feet space in Berkeley, back to Mom's spare bedroom. I finally got my own apartment in 2012, and I love it *so* much. Just a boring Houston box, but it's *mine*. Well, ok, it's actually my cats', but they do let me have the run of the place :)
posted by Ambient Echo at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those houses seem great for people whose lives consist of eating, sleeping, going to work, and operating a laptop computer. They would suck for any kind of creative hobby. I need space for tools, parts, art supplies, musical instruments, big speakers, and a table that I can leave strewn with work-in-progress for a while.

I lean toward the tinier spaces myself, because my life is pretty much eat, sleep, laptop (plus gym, bars, and general going outery) and I balked initially at the large apartment my partner and I ended up renting. I mean it's like almost 1000 sf, what on earth were we going to do with it, oh my god the cleaning, etc.

Well my partner is a hobby person. And two years into our big apartment adventure, I am almost ready to be talked into a house, or at least another bedroom, because it would sure be nice to be able to close a door on all of his project spaces (which currently occupy the dining room, the spare bedroom, and the back porch). Maybe the key is for him to buy a house, and I'll live in a Tiny House in the yard. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:42 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


all of that aside, I really approve of the "inescapable farts" tag on this post, and hope to see it applied --in both literal and figurative interpretations-- across so much more of the site in future.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:44 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


And just down from my Berkeley place was a lot that had like 6 or 8 tiny homes on it. Normal city house lot sized place, but little apartments that were all separate buildings. I always wanted to look inside one of them, but I never saw one come up for rent, or knew anyone who lived in one. Just down from Dwight and Ellsworth, for anyone who lives near.

One thing I've taken from looking at tons of small places is it created (or maybe crystalized?) a desire to be very intentional about what I buy. I tend towards clutter if I'm not careful, and seeing all these minimal spaces helps me to stay careful.
posted by Ambient Echo at 12:58 PM on July 8, 2015


Completely personal reaction as to why this can be annoying, and much of it may be founded on assumption and prejudice, but still.

a) a general aroma of smugness.

b) the inescapable feeling that if you revisited many of the people in a few years they wouldn't be living in a tiny house at all. Which is fine in itself, circumstances change, but if you evangelise the tiny house as way of living...

c) the thought expressed above that some of the tiny house evangelists will be forever round your house using your bath and asking if they can put another box in your garage.

d) the common ground with internet look at me minimalists. Who don't so much have a general aroma of smugness as a full on World War I gas!gas!gas! affair, and who always seem to be in a situation where of their 99 possessions, 50 are made by Apple and 49 of those are in every photo that they take, and what's more curiously always seem to be this year's model iPhone and Macbook and etc etc etc which tends to make me believe that the rejection of consumerism isn't quite as strident in practice as it is in blog entries about ooh, here's my white desk.

e) because when I was little my favourite books were about a little bear who lived on a boat which was like a tiny house, and then later on in a lighthouse, and I so much wanted to live in a little boat, which had bookshelves and curtains and lampshades and teapots, when I wasn't living in my lighthouse, and I don't live in either and so get a little cranky and jealous and write about people being smug when they are probably very nice. When not in my bath.
posted by reynir at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


I know a few people who live, or did live for some time, on board sailing yachts, which make most "tiny homes" seem reasonably palatial. Most of them loved it (and they were all, as it happens, great readers--being a reader is not the same thing as being someone who collects books; there's nothing wrong with being a book-collector, of course, and if you are one of those then living on a yacht will not work for you, but there's no limitation on how much you read based on the size of your living quarters). There can be a real sense of liberation in having less stuff cluttering up your life.

I don't think I could go that minimalist full-time. On the other hand I live in about 1000 sq. ft. and it often feels substantially roomier than we (a childless couple) need. And that's less than half the size of the median new single family home.
posted by yoink at 1:12 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


reynir: "e) because when I was little my favourite books were about a little bear who lived on a boat which was like a tiny house, and then later on in a lighthouse, and I so much wanted to live in a little boat, which had bookshelves and curtains and lampshades and teapots, when I wasn't living in my lighthouse"

I had a great-aunt whose father was a lighthouse keeper so they lived in lighthouses all up and down the East Coast when she was a girl, and when they lived on an island one they had a cat who would only poop on the mainland, who would demand to go out during hurricanes and then slowly and painstakingly haul himself across the little 2-foot-wide board walkway from the island to the mainland, all sets of claws dug into the boards, holding desperately on, being whipped by wind and pounded by rain, waves crashing over the narrow path, just so he could poop on the mainland.

He would come back half an hour later, bedraggled, wet, cold, and smug.

This has no connections to tiny houses, I just loved that story when I was a little girl.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:32 PM on July 8, 2015 [33 favorites]


Oddly, even though I am anti-clutter and would love to have less stuff, the tiny houses don't really appeal to me. A few weeks traveling in an old Airstream trailer - sure. Actually living in a house that small? No thanks.

I have 2 big dogs and I'd like to have more dogs. My husband and I are both tall, and need a queen-sized bed. And I need privacy sometimes, or to be a room away from music playing or the TV.

We do already live in a fairly small house, built in 1936. We had knock out a wall so the fridge was no longer on the back porch and buy an apartment-sized stove because the kitchen wasn't designed for both a range and a modern fridge (they had an ice box I guess.) We have a love seat instead of a sofa and one chair in the living room, and a little round dining table that fits 4.

We also have a tiny car now, or tiny-ish. It's essentially a two-seater because there's no leg room in the back so we can't take any human passengers with us, which has required a few adjustments in our life. However, if we put the two useless back seats down, there's plenty of room for our two large dogs to ride with us.

What I would love is a tiny art studio in the backyard but we're going to compromise on the construction for that, and instead turn the guest bedroom/TV room into a guest bedroom/TV room/studio space for me.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:51 PM on July 8, 2015


I've long described the tiny-house movement as reinventing the fifth wheel.
posted by drlith at 2:06 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I could fit an entire neighborhood of tiny houses in my studio/living room.
posted by Jode at 2:12 PM on July 8, 2015



i live in a promise chest floating in the gowanus


I can't figure out whether that's the first sentence of a horror novel or a superhero origin comic, but you can put me down for a copy because I'll read either one.
posted by thivaia at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


They are just a snobby upscale version of a tiny trailer home.

I can't remember where I heard it but

"People in Tiny Dwellings drinking 'Young" Bourbons like they're not living in a trailer drinking moonshine."
posted by The Whelk at 2:26 PM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


i live in a promise chest floating in the gowanus

Ohhhhh! I DREAM of living in a promise chest floating in the gowanus. Our promise chest held nine children in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and each child would have to spend three hours daily bailing the chest and fighting off sharks just so the other children could get to their jobs at the factory.
posted by MsMolly at 2:28 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


They are just a snobby upscale version of a tiny trailer home.

Another kind of tiny home - in a converted dumpster - prompted the coining of a phrase for this, "class-washing".
posted by ryanshepard at 2:31 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


A housemate really likes tiny houses. We have ALL the tiny house books, or so it seems.

I am always a bit puzzled as to why there aren't more sorta-tiny houses. A lot of the problems of tiny houses go away if you go up to, say, 350 or even 400 square feet, and that's still rather small. (I live in a shared 2500 square foot Victorian; my bedroom itself is probably 150 square feet, and very nice it is, too.)

If it were just for me, 250 square feet would be ample; I often think of what a great studio apartment my room would make.
posted by Frowner at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2015


I mean, look, an alternative lifestyle is great if you choose it. Not so great if you have no other options.

That's what galls me about the whole "voluntary simplicity" movement in general, is the almost-inevitable classism. I mean right there in the name -- calling out the "voluntary" part. Because INVOLUNTARY simplicity is just poverty. And we can't have anyone thinking we're POOR, now can we?

I know many people who live simple lives for sincere reasons whom I wouldn't tar with that brush in a million years. But once it moves out of "a series of choices" and into a philosophy or movement, it seems like that baggage unavoidably gets dragged into it.
posted by KathrynT at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


And of course, it's hilariously ironic that we're all living in, like, the opposite of a tiny ultra modern house.
posted by Frowner at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2015


also I love tiny house blogs and I can get sucked right into them, particularly while elevating my foot which is throbbing after stubbing my toe on a train set or barking my shin on a balance bike or stepping on a thousand legos
posted by KathrynT at 2:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this thread alongside the climate change thread next door. On the one hand, Americans really do need to downsize our resource footprints to be able to continue to survive on this planet - but on the other hand, it's not like any one of us created the situation we're in right now, and the over-emphasis on personal consumption decisions often serves to elide the vastly more important roles of industry and regulation.

But there seriously needs to be a way to talk about changing the way we live and reducing our footprints without sounding like anyone is personally calling out anyone else for living the way we were raised to live. This is such a huge problem in every conversation that touches on sustainability. It's damn near impossible to say that the way we live needs to change without seeming to implicitly "call out" everybody who lives that way now. The defensiveness around our cognitive dissonance regarding our actual impacts on the planet just serves to shut down all discussion of how we might be able to live differently, and it's a real obstacle to trying to avert some of the worst outcomes of unchecked climate change.

The home size thing is a perfect example. It's not like any of us personally chose to build all of these big houses, but there's an undeniable trend of US house sizes rising precipitously over the past 65 years, and we absolutely need to be able to talk about whether we want to continue that trend, or whether it's sustainable, without implying that anybody who lives in a big house is a bad person or part of the problem. In my ideal world we'd also talk about the institutional incentives that lead to these outcomes - but just being reflexively defensive about the current size of our houses doesn't help, either.

I can think of it with respect to eating meat, I guess. I still eat meat even though I know that it's terrible for the planet and that I should not do it, and that cognitive dissonance can make me feel really defensive about my choices at times, especially when people question me about it. I'll probably stop eating meat sometime in the next few years but I just don't feel ready yet somehow, and I think that's OK. Not all of these choices can be made overnight. But I still need to be able to engage in an honest discussion about the ecological effects of meat consumption without feeling personally attacked somehow.

Has anyone seen any rhetorical approaches that seem to help with this problem? I really struggle with it. There has to be a way to argue that the way we live needs to change without simultaneously victim-blaming all of us everyday people just trying to live our lives the way we were taught to live.
posted by dialetheia at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is hilarious but does not diminish my desire to have a tiny home in the least.

If your desire is anything like your taste in houses then it's got nowhere to diminish to anyway!

*SUNGLASSES*

Actually I want a tiny house as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2015




I'm with mosk— I could do a tiny-ish house as long as it:
- was not in someone else's backyard, and preferably in a forest (but with utilities)
- had proper tall ceilings or vertically stacked spaces, not the popular 7' headroom
- had a two-car garage/workshop and at least one outbuilding for storage

My interest in the Tiny House movement comes from architecture, and I'm designing schema for dwellings as an archipelago of smaller units that can be configured to match needs, with shared outdoor or partially-sheltered space to join between. The goal is not to strictly minimize floor area or building footprint, but to examine the ways we use dwelling spaces using today's materials— similar to the mid-century Case Study project. Some of the most comfortably functional homes I've seen were built in the 1910s-40s and adapted by homeowners over time.

Pushing organizational storage and building services into the 'poche' of the building, ie into thickened walls rather than open rooms that require furniture to function, helps with this. Many Tiny Houses do this, but they also demand significant functional overlap in each space. You can't use a table saw, or a work stand for your bicycle, because the only place to use it is right where the ladder from the loft comes down, which is also right in front of the stove.

But if you have a garage where those things live, and maybe you run solar hot water from the roof into an outdoor shower and soaker tub, and you have a pavilion between the house space and the workshop, your tiny house becomes much more useful to real people's lives. It's also not so tiny, and not so portable, but my thesis here is that exploding the notion of a house into discrete functional parts works better than a giant balloon-framed envelope.

Anyway, if you need me, I'll be in the forest drinking bourbon in a hammock. Not the young kind.
posted by a halcyon day at 3:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Storage is one part of what makes small living possible I am sure.

There is another element where given a budget you just don't need as much stuff.

There are two kinds of bicycle touring. One where you have big heavy bags full of crap and a heavy but durable bike for that kind of load and you move pretty slow. Another kind where you have a fast bike, slick modern spandex gear (which really is the most comfortable thing if you ignore the whole "people think you look funny" thing), and a credit card to pay for dinner and a hotel at the end of the day (and a cell phone in case you need to find a cab from the closest whereever to rescue you, instead of carrying tools and spare parts).

Minimalism is expensive. Poor people need to hang on to all sorts of rarely used crap that rich people can wait and buy when they need it.
posted by idiopath at 3:42 PM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


Mr. Roquette is very, very tall. I am on the shorter end of average. There is no way we could live in a Tiny House and be comfortable.
We each have our own apartment. I spend a lot of time at his place, but sometimes, I hang at my place, for example, right now he's cleaning the oven with the supposedly fume-free oven cleaner. I began to feel queasy, because already I don't feel great, so I went to my place for a bit.
If I am very sick, I go to my place also, because illness renders me anti-social and occasionally bitchy. He doesn't need to cope with that.
We'd have to have a Mid-Sized Tall House for him and a Tiny House for me. Not Worth The Bother.
I still get good ideas from Tiny House blogs on how to use space better. Tiny Houses often have terrific decor.
Tiny Houses usually are far nicer on the outside than mobile homes.
Mobile homes get dents and rust. They generally depreciate rapidly.
Not there aren't nice ones out there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:31 PM on July 8, 2015


Cool, Tiny House Nation is on right now.

(And I JUST discovered that the Biography channel has finally renamed itself to something else, after years and years of having nothing to do with biographies. Better late than never...)
posted by Melismata at 4:34 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Minimalism is expensive. Poor people need to hang on to all sorts of rarely used crap that rich people can wait and buy when they need it.

Our social isolation is really important here, too. I'm as socially anxious as they come, so it's not like I set a great example, but if we just felt more comfortable sharing things with our neighbors, every single house wouldn't necessarily need its own full separate set of all that rarely used crap.

We need more secular, open social institutions to support this sort of thing, like tool libraries. I'm sure there are lots of tragedy of the commons issues, but we have better technology to manage this sort of thing than we ever have before. Where's the Uber but for sharing crap with your neighbors?
posted by dialetheia at 4:37 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


"But I still have a few hundred books. Where do you put the books in a TinyHouse?"


I am a heavy reader - I read approximately 30-40 books per month... I admit, I love the feel of a paper book, but... I keep my library on my reasonably small, but storage-abundant (24 TB) NAS server - along with my 500+gb music library, 300+gb audio book library, movie and TV show libraries (shrinking now, with the ever increasing streaming options available) - plus it stores my backup files, virtual machines for work, etc.

Then I read my ebooks with either my phone, tablet - or best yet, my Kobo Aura H20... (never liked the locked-in nature of the Kindle, but e-Ink screens are perfect for hard-core readers - they finally have the resolution, and backlighting issues solved...)...

Today's technology vastly enables smaller home living, minimalism, etc. (And big-screen media? That's what a projector is for... invisible when not in-use... now, if only tiny speakers could have good bass, without a giant sub-woofer somewhere...)
posted by jkaczor at 5:27 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


...aspirational, but with a veneer of plausibility, i.e. crack for the middle-class.

When I first discovered tiny homes, around 2004 or so, my mind went wild with possibilities. The main attraction of living in a tiny house, for me, was always about the hope of finding freedom from compulsive full-time wage labour through avoidance of mortgage interest. (I had been eagerly devouring books like Rob Roy's Mortgage Free! Radical Strategies for Home Ownership.)

I knew I would never have kids, I could never have pets in my home due to animal dander allergies, I didn't want to take on the maintenance duties of a large home, and I'm an introvert who thrives in solitude. So in many ways I was well suited to live in a tiny home. If I could find a way to pay cash up front for a tiny house (or buy the materials and build it myself) and thereby own a small, low-maintenance place to live without taking on a mortgage, I reasoned, I would in turn be able to spend less time earning money, which would then free up more time for me to write and work on other self-driven creative projects over the long term.

Things didn't work out that way for a long list of depressing reasons I won't go into, including the fact that my savings account was wiped out through a divorce...but for several years I had a very heady sense that it might be possible. Crack for the middle class indeed.
posted by velvet winter at 5:49 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


KathrynT: "articularly while elevating my foot which is throbbing after stubbing my toe on a train set or barking my shin on a balance bike or stepping on a thousand legos"

Yeah I love tiny houses because they appeal to my love of everything ship-shape, multifunctional, and fitting neatly in its place (also RVs! also little sailboats!), but I think my obsession really got out of control when I had a second child and they took up so much of my space and mental energy. Part of fantasizing about tiny houses, for me, is definitely a "room of one's own" thing and the idea of living all by myself in a cozy little place that's all mine. Which of course I don't actually want, but window shopping for it scratches the itch.

Plus, like others have said, it does help encourage me to get rid of extraneous crap and think about how much stuff I actually need. And I've found some clever storage ideas and so on.

dialetheia: "Has anyone seen any rhetorical approaches that seem to help with this problem? I really struggle with it. There has to be a way to argue that the way we live needs to change without simultaneously victim-blaming all of us everyday people just trying to live our lives the way we were taught to live."

Honestly I've found a lot of peace on the recipient end by NOT getting defensive when someone is Lifeing better than me in a way that I wish I was doing better; instead I just think, "Well, I'm trying, I'm not perfect, life is full of compromises."

I am ready to start seeing more two-story "tiny house" cottages, off trailers, with a footprint the size of bigger trailer tiny houses, but a full second story up top, where you could put a master bedroom with a WALL, a landing, and then a kids' room with a pair of bunks. Or whatever. Zoning is the issue, I guess, with getting really small cottages in a greater variety of shapes and sizes.

Also now I've had to start a Pinterest board for tiny houses for myself. :P
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows, I think that someone who's written so many interesting comments about a single-link Tiny House post is creating the expectation that she'll put together a fascinating multi link Tiny House post of her own.

Signed, virago, who lives in a Tiny Condo but dreams of a Tiny House even though she'd have to jettison half her books to do so.)
posted by virago at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Living in Japan where everything is already a compacted a few meters smaller or narrower than you'd like, I don't know if this trend could ever catch on, at least not with the same idealism attached.

But it does sort of remind me of Japan's most famous home makover TV show, Gekiteki Before After (劇的ビフォーアフター). Youtube search brings up several episodes.

The homes chosen for the show suffer from unique problems, usually extreme space limitations, but sometimes problems like access for disabled residents, etc. Owners still pay for the material costs but they get a free superstar architect.

What I like about the show is that, unlike American equivalent shows which were more like "pimp my house," the architects here usually focus on unique ways of saving or transforming space with custom closets, tables, hideaway furniture, etc. If a full episode of Japanese is too much, you can skip to the before/after comparison shots in the final segment.
posted by p3t3 at 6:48 PM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


virago: "Eyebrows, I think that someone who's written so many interesting comments about a single-link Tiny House post is creating the expectation that she'll put together a fascinating multi link Tiny House post of her own."

Heh, I think I've used up just about all my good links! But I did find a couple more.

Wheelchair Accessible: NextDoor Housing (in Minneapolis) was specifically created to deliver permanent or monthly-rental "tiny houses" that are fully ADA compliant and wheelchair accessible, intended for aging parents who want their own space but need more care than they can get in their own home; or someone recovering from an injury who needs support; or a caregiver family member who is coming to live with an aging or disabled relative. That'd be pretty cool, if you were going to take care of your mom while she recovered from a hip replacement and she could rent a tiny house for you for a couple months to be plunked in her yard!

Ecocapsule: Wind-and-solar powered self-contained little capsule intended for uses like scientists in the field and I WAAAAAAAAAANT one.

Artistic Tiny Houses: from Zyl Vardos, very stylish!

And NOW you guys have all my good links!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am ready to start seeing more two-story "tiny house" cottages, off trailers, with a footprint the size of bigger trailer tiny houses, but a full second story up top, where you could put a master bedroom with a WALL, a landing, and then a kids' room with a pair of bunks. Or whatever. Zoning is the issue, I guess, with getting really small cottages in a greater variety of shapes and sizes.

Just the stairs themselves are an issue. Stairs take up a minimum of about 65 sq ft of space depending on your local code (though you can use some space above and below for storage, of course). For cost and practicality, a single story makes much more sense at tiny house sizes, once you aren't dealing with the towability limitations.

And if you put two stories worth of tiny house on one floor, you end up with about 350 sq ft, which is a pretty reasonable small house, historically speaking. In my small mining town, some of the company-built houses were just 400 sq ft only 60 years ago, but almost every one has been added on to in various ways by now (often with cramped little staircases that would never be allowed now).
posted by ssg at 8:00 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


My obsession with tiny houses, RVs, British sheds and beach huts, boats etc are absolutely a manifestation of the tidy, minimalist, fancy design person I wish I was, plus the fantasy that they would feel comforting and womblike rather than claustrophobic and farty.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:12 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I like small spaces and don't have a lot of stuff, but even I found my old ~400 sq ft studio apartment pretty tight. The biggest issue for me was that I had to sleep on a foldout couch, since there was no room for both a couch and a bed, and it was (unexpectedly!) an enormous pain to have to open the bed up at night right before falling asleep and to have to close it up again in the morning right after waking up. After living in that apartment, I decided that all my future places would have to have room for a normal bed.

Trailers are actually pretty big ime, so I would say that these tiny houses are more like RVs. In any case, tiny houses aren't that appealing to me, personally. They're too modular. It seems exhausting to constantly have to be pulling compartments and things open and closed and rearranging the home's storage/doors/whatever and climbing up and down ladders just in order to do daily things like fix lunch or go to bed.

When I was a kid, my family moved from an apartment (2br/1ba) to a rowhouse (3br/1ba) that was about 800 or 900 square feet, and I thought that house was enormous. Way too big. Now I'm thinking of buying a similar rowhouse, but plan to have a couple roommates if I do. It seems too spooky to be all alone in a house like that.

In my experience, the space needed for one person is basically the same as the amount of space needed for two, and adding a third or fourth doesn't really require much more space, either. But also in my experience, there is a minimum amount of space that's necessarily for a place to be habitable for anybody, even one person on her own. So I guess what I'm saying is that a shared house with each person getting 100 sq ft or something to herself seems very comfortable and ordinary, whereas each person living in her own separate 100 sq ft box seems really uncomfortable and difficult. So I guess what doesn't make sense to me about the tiny house idea is why everyone needs to be cordoned off in her own house instead of sharing? I mean, in that studio apartment I mentioned above, I was more or less living with a man there and it really didn't make much of a difference whether we were both there or just one of us was. None of my issues with that apartment were about sharing the space, they were all about the utility of the space (which was limited because the size of the space was limited).

Anyway, speaking of "spooky" -- what's the security like with those little houses? Can you imagine having to put security bars on the windows, considering the house itself already threatens to be pretty claustrophobic? You'd really feel like a prisoner then.
posted by rue72 at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2015


Well we will be retiring this "House" next year. The downstairs is the engine room so I suppose you could put the bath and kitchen in there.
It is in the bay area so people have asked to rent it as is.
posted by boilermonster at 9:49 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


In my small mining town, some of the company-built houses were just 400 sq ft only 60 years ago, but almost every one has been added on to in various ways by now (often with cramped little staircases that would never be allowed now).

My favorite living situation ever was the summer I was lucky enough to rent a furnished house in Portsmouth, NH's Atlantic Heights neighborhood for a ridiculously low rent. This was the first federal housing project in US history, built for shipbuilders during WWI. It was a modest brick house with a small living room and kitchen downstairs, two small bedrooms upstairs, and a nice little yard with a deck. Probably 600 sq feet all told? It was such a perfect little house and I seriously dream of finding a place like that to buy someday.

As for the truly tiny homes, like a lot of people I love looking at tiny house home tours and seeing all the creative ways they are designed, but I am just definitely not organized enough to live in such a small space myself. You have to have a very strong "putting things away" gene to live in those houses. I do not possess that gene.
posted by lunasol at 9:58 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think some of the appeal is from people like my SO who love reading about and looking at things like super tiny homes and submarines and houseboats and RVs cause they contain the maximum amount of clever little devices and solutions to storage problems and unique design challenges to overcome but when actually living in them comes up I remind him he considers the utterly obnoxiously huge apartment we live in "too tiny" cause you're you can't actually take apart a car in it.
posted by The Whelk at 11:53 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I watched the BuzzFeed video and the next one in the playlist was about all the stupid crap women have in their purse.

Speaking as a woman who actually has and uses Altoids tins and purse organizers, the same principle applies to tiny housing. I love seeing all the design ideas and I would love to have a tiny house, though I'd have to be willing to get rid of a lot of my possessions to live in it full-time.

I think dance practice would become a problem pretty fast, though.

Basically the ideal would be if I were one of those women in a women's magazine feature, who works full-time as a children's book illustrator and works in one of these whimsical little structures at the bottom of the garden. She has three children, all blonde, and all of them named Sophie, pictured here in their identical little blue velvet dresses from somewhere expensive.
posted by tel3path at 4:55 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


omigod p3t3 thankyou for posting the links to the Japanese show. I only had time to watch the Before/After section, but it was great. And the reveal to the family was charming. Obviously I don't understand what's being said, but great-grandma looks like a real character.

As with any lifestyle decision, I feel like the people at the extremes can spur people in the average middle to make more intentional choices about their lives. I watch Hoarders and look at Tiny Homes on Pinterest for the same reason, that I feel my life has too much random crap in it and want to change that. I'll never live in a Tiny Home, but I'm renovating my small unit to make better use of the space I have. It's good to see the full range of possibilities.
posted by harriet vane at 5:30 AM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unless the tiny houses cost substantially more than I'd guess ($10-20k?)... they seem an absolute bargain with a very, very obvious set of tradeoffs. :-)

Looking at rents in SF over $4k, the idea of having a house the size of a small 1BR apartment for less than six months of rent... well, doesn't seem like you'd have to regret too much if you got it wrong.
posted by talldean at 5:57 PM on July 11, 2015


You'd have to pay for the space it occupies too. Which is not exactly abundant in SF, or cheap.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:23 PM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]




Unless the tiny houses cost substantially more than I'd guess ($10-20k?)

They cost three or four times that. The Tumbleweed tiny houses will set you back about $60k.
posted by KathrynT at 12:50 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


$60k just gets you the house, you still need land to put it on and utilities to connect it to.
posted by octothorpe at 3:51 AM on July 12, 2015


At the low end, you can get bare-bones builds for around $20,000. A nicely finished one around $40,000. Fully-customized, fancy finishes, goes for around $75,000.

There are two distinct pricing markets, though -- buying from the handful of companies that make these full-time, where prices are pretty stable; or building or partially building your own, which on the one hand saves on a lot of labor cost, but on the other hand often involves buying tools and making costly mistakes. Sometimes people build them with salvage; other times high-end material. So you see people who built a rolling shack for $6,000, and others who built an adorable little cottage trailer for $6,000 ... because they had access to materials and tools and had experience building. Or you see people who spend $70,000 on a self-build because they buy high-end everything. So, you always have to look at self-builds to see what they bought, what they already owned, what they scrounged, etc., to get an idea of what it "really" cost.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2015


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