Part 5...the dark side of a simplified life
The darker side of a simplified life
Any living situation has its challenges. And when you’re in such a confined space, there are
going to be things that come up. I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight a few of the not
so glamorous things about living tiny. The first thing that comes to mind is the occasional
feeling antsy and or caged in. Every now and again, there will be 3 straight days of rain or
insane snow that keeps me from going outside much. The first day or two, its cozy. You’re
curled up on the couch with a book listening to the rain or watching the snow fall and its
lovely. But after a little while, you start to feel like you need to get outside. Fortunately for me,
I’ve got climbing holds all over the walls and the ceiling so I can get quite the energy and
exercise out just moving around a few laps. And then in a severe case, again, thankfully very
rarely, I’ll just go spend the day at a friend’s house.
There’s something strange about feeling lonely from time to time in a place like this. You can
feel like the whole world is going on without you. In 18 feet, there’s no doubt that you’re the
only one home. On the occasional lonely feeling days, it can be quite nerve racking.
Sometimes, I turn on the TV to remember there’s the world outside and other times I’ll just in
the silence and embrace what feels like loneliness. But for the most part, it always feels like a
place of solace and quiet solitude. The other thing about that is, once a friend or two comes to
visit for an hour maybe once or twice that week, you REALLY want your space by the time
There’s definitely lots of time to connect with yourself…maybe too much. I’m a deep thinker. I
once had a college roommate say to me “You have to remember, you’re not like most people.
I mean you go places that nobody goes to and think about shit nobody else thinks about.”
This made me laugh at the time. Its nice when your friends have you pegged. But there’s a
fine balance between enjoying time to yourself, meditating, etc. and starting to “get into your
own head” more than is healthy. And lets face it, when you’re living in a space this small, its
not there’s a lot of room to “entertain.” It still feels cozy when my partner comes to visit for
dinner. But anymore than 2 people in here at once can feel a little cushy.
It wouldn’t be an honest tiny blog if I didn’t address one minor little detail. They are in fact
illegal to live inhabit in most areas of the country. I just happen to live in one of the few places
in the country that have passed local legislation around them being legal as long as they are
under the title of ADU’s or auxiliary dwelling units. These are smaller spaces “like
mother-in-law” apartments or cottages that reside in someone’s backyard used to rent out the
space. There are of course quite a few hoops to be jumped through, but it can be done. There
are number of reasons for the illegality of living in these structures. But just to name a few,
there are all sorts of zoning codes that state that if its on wheels, it cannot be lived in full-time.
There are minimum square footage requirements, certain numbers of exits needed, the exits
must be certain sizes and my personal favorite, they must be larger than 500 square feet to
be considered inhabitable. And then there’s the obvious little requirements to be hooked up to
city sewer. Somehow, this day in age, in good old America, there are very few places that
actually are educated on composting toilets. Officials are clueless when it comes to how they
function, the environmental advantages and efficiency of them. For example, my compost
toilet consists of a 5 gallon bucket and some saw dust. There’s no smell in the bucket nor in
the compost pile out back. The compost pile serves as compost for a number of friend’s
gardens where they actually pay me for my poop. And my personal favorite benefit, I’m not
wasting 8 gallons of perfectly fresh drinking water every time. In any event, its important to be
either really aware of meeting the legal criteria for living in such a structure, or do what most
of the tiny house community does and “fly under the radar” if at all possible. And of course, be
prepared to move at anytime should you receive a 30 day notice to vacate. It only takes one
complaint from one neighbor to a city code enforcement officer and you’re on the run looking
for another place to park the thing. Easier said than done. So either have neighbors that don’t
care or park it in a wooded area where nobody would ever know the difference. I want to be
very clear here. I’m not telling anyone to go “break the law.” I’m just writing about my
particular (legal) circumstance, hoping to inform those that might be interested in living this
lifestyle, the realities of going after it. They almost never talk about this side of things on the
TV shows. They just show the glamorous people all happy in their tiny space. They need to
make a follow up show called, “searching for a place to park our dream home.”
Not necessarily a “dark side” to living tiny but certainly two BIG things to consider before
thinking about pulling the trigger are the following questions. Where will I be getting water and
power hooked up? The first easy answer is, haul your water in from a friend’s house. Its a
pain in the ass but its way cheaper than digging a well. In my case, I haul water in the winter
and we happen to have a well here on property that I use in the summer. As far as power
goes, that’s a little trickier depending on where you’re parking the thing. I had an electrical
hookup wired to the workshop of the land owner so that was pretty rad of him! Solar is just
not practical right now unless you have a fat wallet and you’re running very little electricity.
But to give you an idea of how far we have to go with solar, it would take 20 years before a
solar system that would allow me continue living my current lifestyle to be profitable. Even at
my most expensive months, its just not worth it. Along with this whole list of issues, one
should absolutely consider how much water you’re going to use each week. If you’re willing to
only turn the shower on to get wet and rinse, you can really conserve the water usage. But
most of us spoiled Americans love our long hot showers. The average american uses
between 80 and 100 gallons of water in their shower. For reference, my water storage tank is
80 gallons. Its about my height (5’11) and just wide enough for a 145 pound person to stand
in it. In other words, we use A LOT of water in this country when we shower. And when you
have to haul your water in during the winter at 65 lbs in each hand, you start to really pay
attention to how much water you actually need to live. So be realistic about how much water
you think you’ll be using if you’re thinking of pulling the trigger. I do know people that do not
have running water in their tiny homes. They just shower at the gym, do laundry at friend’s
houses or laundro-mats and brush their teeth from a water bottle. I confess, I’m not that
hardcore, not for more than a week or two anyway.
Lets talk about living as a couple. If you’re going to try and do the tiny couple thing, you’d
better like each other…a lot! I do know a few a couples out there that make work. But it takes
a lot of work. So if you’re thinking of pulling THAT trigger, I would highly suggest that you go
spend a week together in one using an Air Bnb or a tiny house hotel experience and
experiment. Or, go live in a van or even a car together for 2 weeks. IF you don’t divorce,
separate or kill one another, you might have a shot at living happily tiny together.
There’s the lovely little topic that everyone somehow always asks about. Did you just poop?!
To be clear, there’s no escape. Open a window…sure. But it doesn’t do much. The reality is,
there’s not a lot of privacy if you have company over. You learn to not be modest and just
accept that we’re all human. Although, some people are a little subconscious to hear their
friend or their mate peeing in a bucket.
The elephant in the room, do you guys have sex in there? What’s tiny house sex shagging
like anyway? Well, since you asked, its like having sex in your own house. You’re just limited
to a few go to positions and if you’re in the loft, you have to try not to bump your head, less
you ruin the moment and then play time is over real quickly.
A lovely little question I get asked a lot is to Loft or not to Loft? The big advantage, SPACE
SAVER! There are floor plans out there that call for a “guest room” or even a main bedroom
downstairs. These floor plans are usually designed with the elderly or the disabled in mind.
For the most part, I love having a loft. The only downside is having to use motor skills and
thought getting down a ladder in the middle of the night when you’re brain isn’t exactly firing
on all cylinders. But otherwise, I’ve loved it up there! Its just so cozy! And if you’re going to
loft, have a skylight that opens and a back window that also opens for cross ventilation
breezes in the nicer months.