Tiny Houses: What's the Story?
I haven’t exchanged my average sized home for a tiny one just yet, but I love looking at these tiny spaces. It’s no longer just for hippies. Retirees, young couples, and even families are going small. There’s a lot that’s attractive about the idea of a small home on wheels (okay, basically a fancy RV), but as with any trend it’s not all blue skies and rainbows. But despite the drawbacks I understand why this movement is so attractive to so many.
What are some of the pluses of owning a tiny home?
For those concerned about the ecological footprints they’re leaving behind (as we all should be!) a tiny house can be a way to use fewer resources. Less gas, electricity, and water are needed for a small space! Many tiny homes take this a step further by going completely off the grid, using solar panels and composting toilets.
Mortgages account for huge chunks of monthly expenses. Imagine if your mortgage payment was cut in half or even disappeared altogether. Some tiny homeowners build their home from scratch while others purchase theirs outright or finance for a few hundred dollars a month. Either way it’s almost guaranteed to be less than a typical mortgage payment!
Not all tiny homes are mobile, but those that are offer an exhilarating freedom. The ability to go anywhere wheels can take you opens up a new world of possibilities. Road tripping to the extreme!
I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who has been overwhelmed by stuff. Doing laundry and cleaning my house often leaves me wondering why I need so many things and so much space. The idea of no longer having closets of junk and pairing down life to the basics is inspiring.
However, as great as all of those things truly are, just like anything else going tiny comes with difficulties and sacrifices. Here are a few of the big ones.
Ever used a composting toilet? Depending on your plumbing situation you may need to learn. Lack of water and electric connections can be a difficult reality, especially if the home is mobile. Utilities we take for granted on a day to day basis can be luxuries in these little homes.
Tiny Houses Are…Well…Tiny
It drives be crazy when I watch Tiny House Hunters and the couple with an unlimited tiny house budget walks in and says, “It just seems really small…not a lot of storage.” Come on, people! It’s a tiny house! But to some extent I get it. It takes serious commitment to downsize to a true tiny home. There’s no specific square foot definition out there, but most people usually say anything under 500 square feet is considered a tiny home. Mobile ones are usually under 200! It’s a drastic lifestyle change. But the people on the show still need to get over it.
Family Planning Concerns
It’s one thing for a retiree to buy a tiny home, but a young single or married couple will face some unique challenges, especially if they go extremely tiny. 150 square feet doesn’t accommodate much growth. Getting married or having kids means either crowding more people into a small space or giving up the tiny dream.
Where to Put It?
Unless you live in Oregon this is probably the biggest drawback to owning a tiny home. Zoning codes haven’t caught up with the trend and it can be difficult to find a place to put the tiny space. Tiny homes can sometimes be zoned as RVs or mobile homes in which case they’ll often have to go in a park of some kind, but strict park association rules can make this difficult. Most tiny homeowners have to buy or rent a piece of land and live with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality, technically illegal, but able to fly under the radar if neighbors don’t complain. This of course runs the risk of having to uproot and move at any time, even if you own the land. Right now Michigan is not an especially tiny home friendly state, so until that changes if you truly want a tiny home you may need to plan on leaving the mitten.
Tiny homes aren’t for everyone, but there are big payoffs for those who decide to take the leap. For now I’m a tiny home observer, but still aspire to do my best to live out some of the tiny home ideals of protecting the environment and simplifying my life. We could all learn some big lessons from these little spaces!