My co-worker Michelle forwarded me author Chuck Wendig’s Tiny House Drinking Game, and through that, I found his open letter to tiny house hunters, referring, of course, to HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters. I laughed my way through it. Here’s a sampling:
First, the toilet. We just need to get this out of the way right now. It’s very possibly a composting toilet. Now, if you’re a hipster like me, you think, HEY COMPOSTING IS GOOD, but I do want you to understand, you’re basically keeping your poop. I mean, we all keep our poop somewhere. Mine is underneath my backyard. But yours will be closer. More intimate. It will be mixed with sawdust or coconut hulls or, I dunno, the ashes of your parents, but you’ll keep it close and it will turn into dirt that conceivably you can use to grow flowers. That’s very nice. But make no mistake, whereas right now you poop into a bowl and pull a lever and the poop is whisked away by forces unknown, in a composting toilet you mostly just poop and then kinda… get up and walk away. I say this only because many of you seem quite surprised. As long as you don’t mind pooping like you’re living at a Lilith Fair, you should be fine.
(For the record, we use cocoa bean hulls.)
Some time ago, a post called “Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses” made the rounds. I thought it was funny and spot on, but I also felt a bit defensive at the time. I realize I’ve loosened up since then.
Over the past year of living in our tiny house, I’ve gone through many different emotions. I’ve been excited, impulsive, idealistic, frustrated, stressed, cautious, happy, relieved, settled, foolish, embarrassed, and now realistic.
The novelty of my house has worn off. I’m sitting in it right now, and it’s not a dream house, or a cozy writing retreat in the woods, or a whimsical space where I feel free and live simply. It’s a tiny house — 131 square feet — with a sink that’s too small, a shower with walls that are starting to bulge from the hot water, a sofa that’s not comfortable for two people, and a perpetual slight dampness that I fear is becoming a problem.
That said, I still love this thing. It’s like a child, as I’ve said before. We made it, flaws and all. There’s a lot of ridiculousness and impracticality in all of this. Believe me, I know. So yes, I laugh and nod my head while reading Wendig’s words, and simply shrug when I read something that doesn’t apply to me. Because not all of it does.
When I first told people I was building a tiny house, they forwarded me links to other tiny houses, or asked if I watched the Tiny documentary, or watched this or that. I felt I had to be enthusiastic, but the truth is I’ve never liked to read other tiny house blogs or watch tiny house shows. I thought I should because, well, aren’t I one of these people? Shouldn’t I appreciate other people’s builds and stories? I love House Hunters and can binge-watch that show all day. But I can’t, for the life of me, watch the tiny house version of the show, nor have I ever been able to get through an entire episode of Tiny House Nation without wanting to vomit.
That has made me wonder. Are Nick and I that annoying?
When we first set out on our tiny house adventure, there was a rosy filter over my eyes. I remember what I originally wrote on our eyeroll-worthy About page, which I’ve since taken down. Downsizing. Simplifying. Freeing up time and money. Blah blah blah. The downsizing and purging was fairly easy to do, and I love that we own less stuff. As for freeing up money, we paid off this house in just over half a year, so it’s nice to be able to say that we own it outright. But I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say that we’ve freed up money. What does that even mean? We’re saving more money quicker, perhaps, but there’s much more to our financial situation than “build tiny house → become mortgage-free.”
And what about simplifying our lives? Carving out more time to do the things we really enjoy? I’m foolish for thinking this house could be a method to free up time. It isn’t. A tiny house can’t ease the stress of work, or magically tick off items on a To Do list. Tiny house hunters envision their rural homestead fantasy, and somehow that translates into simple, minimal living. I think about this each time I watch Nick dump a bucket of our shit into the compost bin in the garden, and he hands it to me so I can scrub its insides with Citrasolve and a big, bristly brush.
The idea of tiny house living is easy to sell on television, Pinterest lifestyle boards, and Sunset and Dwell spreads. I mean, come on: I’m not easily seduced by anything, yet here I am.
I shared Wendig’s post on Facebook, and a friend asked me: what’s your verdict on tiny houses, Cheri? It was hard to answer succinctly. I also receive emails and comments from readers — most of them strangers — asking me, well, what do you think? Should I build a tiny house, too?
I can’t answer these questions. I continue to work through how I feel about my own house, about tiny houses in general. We all have different lives, are in different situations, and have our reasons for choosing to build one. I have no idea what is appropriate for other people.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying yes, I live in a tiny house; yes, I identify with most of the things Wendig writes in his post; and yes, I think it’s hilarious and spot on. I mean, I live in a space that is smaller than most people’s bathrooms. I poop in a plastic bucket. My kitchen is also my office and my dining room and my living room. How could I not have a sense of humor about this? How could I not constantly ponder my choices?