Oooh, Tiny House Seem Appealing? Let’s Think it Through


 “Simplify your life! Don’t waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don’t burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have….Don’t Destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present; enjoy the present. Simplify!”

― Henry David Thoreau

You’ve seen the pictures of the cute, tiny houses that make an austere, Zen existence seem so right. And then you look around your cluttered place that you pay a big amount for every month and chastise yourself for a flabby, excessive lifestyle. Whether paying rent (good bye cash!) or making payments on a mortgage that should be earning you equity, it still seems like too much of your income is unavailable, gone! And what does it cost to heat the space that’s just storing your stuff? So you weave a daydream of paying in one lump sum for just what you need, right at your fingertips, in your slick and simple private space with the birds chirping right outside the loft windows. Oh, and is this a wandering love-nest to find adventures for two?

It sounds wonderful, and if you can make it happen I wish you the best. So let’s have fun and think this through a bit. How about an imaginary tiny house to see what it would be like? Mark out on the floor of your biggest room in masking tape or chalk (vacuums up easily) or soup cans the actual outline of a tiny house, with, say, interior dimensions of 6’8″ wide, 18 ft. 10 in. long, and 10’6″ high inside. The loft at the top of a ladder is 9 ft. x 6 ft. 8 in. with 3 1/2 ft. headroom ( If you can imagine the sofa along the wall at one end, and the kitchen counter, cabinets, and little fridge, then the bathroom and little closet, it fills up fast. How does it feel? Notice there’s not a lot of storage space. In fact it may seem like about a suitcase or two, and a box or two, and that’s it. Everything else, like books, pictures, photo albums, Holiday stockings, dishes, and décor, any collection, sports equipment, hobby stuff, most small appliances, most furniture, most plants, and anything in the garage, would have to be sold, given away, or thrown out. Are you okay with that?

It wouldn’t take much to heat this little space, but where is the firewood or fuel coming from? Or the water?  And where does the sewage or toilet compost go? And along these lines, where is your little house sitting? I knew someone who decided he could move from one friend’s yard to another through the year, but had no volunteers and so had to change plans. It is asking a sizable favor to take up half their driveway or a chunk of their yard, as well as some of their privacy and utilities. There are lots of ways to pay rent, but it must be paid.

Another thought along these lines is where to collect your mail. I have heard options like having it collected at a post office will-call window that you would need to visit when you think you might have mail. Or it can be sent to a friend’s house if they are willing to collect it, let you know when you have something, and maybe pay to send it to you.

Then there is a collection of little points that have occurred to me about living in a little trailer or cabin. Besides knocking elbows into cabinets or needing to always keep counters clean so there is a place to put something down, I notice the pictures of tiny homes often show big windows to make the space seem bigger. This takes up a lot of wall space, and at night with the lights on and dark outside, the inside will appear to be on display unless there is good curtain or blinds coverage. Also, I wonder how to deal with needing enough space for a dining room table, for drying wet raincoats, or for rolling out something as big as blueprints? And what if ‘cabin fever’ sets in or someone just needs alone time while it’s raining outside? I like a nice, hot cup of tea in bed. It seems like a challenge trying to climb the ladder with one. And finally, what happens if ‘something happens’? I know it would be a problem to break a leg anywhere you live, but having a plan for if one takes seriously ill or cannot drive when you’re far from friends or family seems wise. And we’re each getting older every day.


So what kind of pilgrim are you? Can you live out of a backpack carrying bare essentials and full of freedom, but dependent on finding work, food, and a place to sleep? Or do you need your own tiny secure space that you can haul around and with a door that locks? Or do you want a stable address to a cabin or mobile home in a park? Or maybe just a smaller, modest house, like a 2-bedroom that has private space and enough storage for things that make you happy? Or maybe you feel a sensible 3-bedroom house has the room you need for friends to visit, for creativity to flow, and space to dance?


 “Complex things are easy to do. Simplicity’s the real challenge.”

― Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County


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