Nov 14, 2015 · 6 minute read
I grew up in a small house.
Until I was 12, I shared a room with my two brothers in a 700-hundred-square-foot house built in the 1940s. My parents had the other room, and there was only one bathroom. If you divide the square footage by the number of people, we were living tiny back then.
Then, when we moved, it was to a 1,200-square-foot house where I got my own bedroom and there were two(!) bathrooms. One time, I actually got lost inside the house.
So I’m no stranger to small-space living. I’ve shared one dresser and one closet for our clothes AND toys with two boys. I shared a room all through college. I shared a studio with my daughter when she was a toddler.
Those experiences may have informed my tastes, but all my life, I’ve always loved small, cute homes with character. Is it any wonder, then, that my daughter and I are preparing to live in a tiny house?
Maybe it is. There are those who grew up in small spaces who wouldn’t want to repeat the experience for anything. But I do.
I think it’s because the larger the house, the more trapped I feel. I’ve said it before, and I don’t know why it’s a thing with me, but the smaller the house, the better to make a quick getaway. It’s most preferable, of course, if your house is on wheels, and you can take it with you, but living in a big house and then having to move all that stuff? Well, that’s just daunting, and so I think the tendency is to stay put, trapped by your stuff.
Right now, we’ve got a 900-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo that we’re renting, and it’s fine, but I prefer more outside space to inside space. Give me a tiny house on a good-sized plot of land, preferably near the ocean, and I’ll be happy. And it turns out that my daughter wants the same thing. Score! It’s time to get this party started.
With this goal of moving into a tiny house, we have been simplifying, downsizing, minimizing, decluttering, whatever you want to call it. That can be really tough work, especially for a 10-year-old. It can also be tough for her mother, so we try to remind ourselves of why we’re doing this.
One of our driving factors is affordability. With the San Francisco Bay Area housing market taking a trip through crazytown right now, nobody can afford anything except the people who work at one of the big tech companies. There are enough of them that they’ve driven all the housing and rental prices up, and not enough of them to account for all the people in the area. So those who aren’t tech whizzes, who do all the other stuff you need to have a functioning society – firefighters, teachers, nurses, gas station attendants – have to figure out ways to afford rent.
There are a number of other reasons – greed, sprawl, low inventory – contributing I’m sure to the lack of truly affordable housing. What passes as official “affordable housing” is out of reach of those who need it most and those who could afford those apartments (never houses) don’t qualify. And renting is the only option for those who can’t afford housing. Rents are so high that they take up most of a paycheck, and after other essentials, there is no money to save for a down payment on a home. Following the burst of the housing bubble, down payments are now so high, that saving one up could take a decade or more. In the meantime, landlords raise rents yearly because “that’s what the market is doing” (worst reason EVER), or they sell the homes they’re renting which displaces the renters who may have had a good thing going.
So people have had to get creative, and many have had to act out of desperation. There are a number of houses with lots of people living in them; there are far too many people living in their cars. The situation is dire, and the response has been slow.
One way people are looking to build affordable housing is through tiny houses, and while regulations still limit them severely, cities are starting to recognize them as a viable alternative for some, including my daughter and me.
Tiny houses won’t solve the housing crisis here, but they’ll help, and hopefully municipalities will recognize their value sooner so we really can get this party started.
Another reason we are looking to a tiny house to fulfill our needs is our concern for the environment. We have tried in the past couple of years to cut down the amount of plastic we use and waste we produce, with an eye toward going zero waste (some super-awesome, inspiring blogs on zero waste and on going plastic-free).
We are also concerned about energy use and, in the midst of an epic drought, we’re concerned about water.
In a tiny home, you don’t need as much of anything – not as much heating and cooling, not as much water because there are fewer faucets to drip and toilets to keep supplied, not as much stuff, since there’s less space to keep it all, and that means not as much stuff to throw away.
Tiny houses take fewer resources to build, and a smaller footprint means there’s more permeable land around us, and less concrete, helping to keep the earth just a little cooler. We’re just two people and a dog, but if everybody does their part, we can keep the world going for generations to come.
Living in a tiny house isn’t necessarily easier, but it will be simpler. The difference is that it will come with its own set of challenges, but there will be less for us to worry about. Less maintenance, less fretting about our lease being up, less stuff. And because it’ll be so small, anything left out will be instant clutter, so everything needs to have a place.
With fewer places to put stuff, we’ll certainly think twice about what we bring into the house, which will save us money.
Tiny houses are less expensive to build than conventional ones, and so with a smaller mortgage payment than we our rent payment, there could be less time spent working and more spent enjoying life. Theoretically.
Those are the things we keep reminding ourselves of, and they really do keep us going, as we sort through things we love and things we don’t.
What’s the smallest house you’ve lived in, and how did you like it? How small would you go?