Move over, giant sprawling houses. Tiny house living is the Next Big Thing. After the Great Recession, people realized they didn't need — and shouldn't have gotten — 4,000 square foot McMansions anymore.
They started dumping all their useless crap, and began to simplify their lives. They started buying smaller and smaller homes, until it blossomed into a new trend: tricked-out garden sheds on small trailers, and every home and garden network airing tiny house programs six times a day.
Some shows focus on the building techniques and technology of the garden shed. Others are more of the hunting type, where — surprise, surprise! — two spoiled and picky people try to buy a tiny home that will suit their crunchy-organic-hug-Mother-Earth lifestyle, but are still surprised at how small the homes are. They want something they can entertain friends in, but still leave them all behind in an instant when they move across country on a whim.
Yet, for all their talk of being mobile, we all know the couple is going to live in her parents' back yard until they bitterly divorce four years later.
For one thing, tiny living is inexpensive. Forget these "wealth managers" who say you need to save $500,000 or even $1 million just to retire. Move into a $40,000 tiny house, and you can pay your mortgage out of a coffee shop tip jar, and your wealth manager won't even acknowledge you in public anymore.
But before cramming ourselves into a shoebox on wheels, let's practice first to see if you're ready.
First, pile everything you own into your front yard. Now set fire to it. Tiny houses don't have storage space, so you have to downsize. You may have thought about putting a few tchotchkes on a shelf above your TV, but don't. The combined weight on that wall will tip your trailer over.
Next, empty out one of your kids' bedrooms, put in your couch, TV, stove, sink, and bed, and live in it for four weeks. Tell your significant other that this is a great chance to grow closer in your relationship. If you need privacy, sit on the other end of the couch and don't make eye contact.
Stick a toilet lid on a bucket and hang a curtain around it. That's your bathroom. It's called a "composting toilet," which is environmental talk for "indoor poop storage." If you want to get fancy during your experiment, nail some plywood together into a makeshift room. Install a loose-fitting, air-permeable door too. Slam it on your knees whenever you're taking care of business, since you can't close it all the way while you're in there.
Once you finish, hurry and shut the door, though it's already too late. Go back to your "side of the house" and make awkward conversation for several minutes, while neither of you address the stinky elephant in the room.
Time for bed. Climb up into the tiny loft you built two feet from the ceiling. Since tiny houses are not made for real mattresses, your bed is made of three yoga mats stacked on top of each other. You lay on your back, your nose just six inches from the ceiling, which also means that clearly anything. . . else is out of the question.
Bottom line, if you want to reduce your life footprint, save money, and eliminate clutter, forget tiny houses. Try a small house instead, around 500 to 800 square feet, two bedrooms and one bathroom. At least you'll have room to live normally.
I believe tiny houses are just a temporary trend, and not a long-term solution for people. It may be fine for the single person who likes to be alone and doesn't want people to visit her. But for those of us who are married and want to stay that way, a tiny house is not for you.
But if you insist on buying one, just do what I was planning to do: build a large storage building for all your stuff, and put the tiny house inside it. Then just live inside that, protected from the elements.
Photo credit: Guillaume Dutih (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)
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