Someone shared a link about a man’s response to unaffordable housing: a tiny house. He and his girlfriend essentially live in a homemade travel trailer with what I imagine is electrical and septic hook-up similar to a campground or a trailer park. I wonder if it’s electric or propane heat; I imagine a woodstove would be messy and downright inconvenient.
Another person responded by sharing blogs about tiny-house living. The first is about a family who homestead (tiny debt-free house, big garden, and various farm animals) while building a larger home in stages. The second details drastic downsizing of a family’s life after a financial collapse.
I sympathize with “living small” out of necessity. From the time I left home until I moved into La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), I lived in a series of rented rooms, tiny apartments, and even a friend’s “house” that was a former camp cabin. Almost all the time, I shared space with one or two other people.
I discovered general rules about living small:
1. Every space is maximized. Under the bed are suitcases with next-season’s wardrobe and flattened moving boxes which will facilitate the next move. A closet or cupboard is a puzzle-box of items you use every day and packages of things you will need in the near-future. If you don’t keep it neat, you’ll regret it. If you are organized, you’ll still drag everything out when you need something.
2. Laundry complicates life. Limited space means no extra towels, sheets, or clothes. You will often choose between lugging a basket of laundry to the nearest washer or washing it in the sink. When you choose the latter, wet laundry will take over your living space for days at a time. Perhaps you will forget that you used the oven as a drying rack and will burn your towels while preheating. More likely, your splendid array of bras will be displayed when unexpected company comes. (Bonus points for an emergency involving firefighters navigating clothesline to reach an in-wall fire.)
3. Environmental pressures will give rise to strange rituals. I used to do the Dance of the Rolling Cart. It was for a TV but, having no TV, I used it for a microwave. First I rolled it against the fridge to make room for opening the kitchen cabinets. Then I pushed it the other way to reach the fridge. Then I shoved it into the doorway so I could move freely between the stove, the counter, and the microwave. Finally I returned it to its starting place so I could walk to the other side of the counter to eat. When I finally moved to an apartment with a larger counter, it felt weird.
4. Intimate dinner parties will be the norm, since too many people make everyone claustrophobic. You’ll also think carefully about overnight guests. Not only will you be sleeping on the floor (because what furniture you have will be too short for stretching out), but you’ll have to take care not to roll too close to the heater or into the table leg.
5. What’s outside your home becomes more important that what’s in it. A safe neighborhood, good sidewalks, and plenty of places to enjoy for free – that makes up for living in a box.
I once shared a converted basement with an undergraduate student. When I say “basement,” that included the crawlspace. Our beds were mattresses placed directly on the floor so we could sit up without hitting our faces against pipes and ducts. Yet it was the perfect location, a short walk from her classes and a few blocks from my work. There were plenty of parks and free events. We spent most of our time outdoors.
I later moved to a city which was conducive to commuting to/from work but not much else. However, my apartment was a couple blocks from the public library and big enough for both a sofa and a good chair for reading.
6. You will learn what you need – and want.
I could have lived in a smaller house than La Casa de Tontería. However, it’s located better than the one-bedroom houses I considered. It also has what I wanted – a guest bedroom, a laundry closet – and a little room to spare.