Living: in a tiny house

They’ll tell you it’s a love-it or hate-it lifestyle. That tiny houses are cheap. That tiny houses are expensive. That no-one can live in one without going crazy. That everyone will be living in them soon. That it’s the green way to go. That it’s a ridiculous concept and we should all build (and live in) McMansions. That tiny houses will save the world. That the world can’t be saved. That you’ll never find somewhere to build one. That you can build one anywhere. That they must be on wheels. That you can only have 52 possessions including your socks.

The truth is – my truth is – that living in a tiny house is just like living in any other dwelling. Yes, you get bored with the color of the walls. You get frustrated at how much cleaning there is to do. You wonder if a “real” house would have as many bugs, as much dust, as little storage space for those things you need but don’t use every day. You sometimes wonder if it’s feasible to start a project, because it’s going to take up your entire living space, and the dog might walk across it. You have those days when it’s been raining all day and the laundry won’t dry and there’s no space to hang it inside. You have a compost toilet that has to be emptied every week, and sometimes you don’t feel like doing so, but you have to or you can’t pee. And sometimes you hesitate to invite people over to your home, because you’re not sure what they’ll make of it, or because if it starts raining you know you’ll all be packed in like sardines in a can.

With all that, it’s “home”. It’s comfortable – except when the roof leaks. It’s unique. It’s a ceiling to stare up at in the middle of the night and think “I made this; this is mine; this is my place of peace, my place of creation, my place of belonging”. When it comes time to cook dinner, everything is within reach, and fresh greens and herbs are only 6 steps away, just outside the (always open) door. To sweep the floor takes under five minutes. Heating water on the stove on a chilly evening makes a bath seem luxurious, intentional, caring – in a way that turning a tap on does not. On the practical side of things, it’s impossible to lose anything in 200 square feet of space. It’s really easy to say “I don’t actually need that” when you consider that you’d have to find space for a new item. And it’s cheap – in my case. For under $3,000 of material costs (spread over a year) and 6 months of full-time building with continued part-time work (there are always more little details to play with – it’s part of the joy of building your own home), I’ve created a home in which I’ve now been living for just about a year. That’s only $250/month…and nothing going forwards apart from maintenance and minor improvements as needed/desired!

Now, I’m not saying it’s for everyone. I was fortunate to already have land available to build upon, with a supporting infrastructure (water and power from a nearby building, use of tools, etc). I started with a sound working knowledge of basic construction techniques, experience with tools of all kinds, and a clear vision of what I wanted to create. I learned a lot during the build, I made mistakes (some I must live with, like a 6’1″ doorway),and there are some things that I’d do very differently a second time (cement roof: not such a great idea). I live “off the beaten track”, and chose not to do a “documented” build. I chose to live with only as much electricity as a single light-duty line can supply. I chose to take a risk, to put all I had into living “tiny”, into following a notion that life this way might be “better”. Or at least different. And so it is. Very “different”, and yet…the same. Life is still the same, with all the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not changing the world. I’m not working wonders in all my supposed free time. I’m not special: I just choose to live in a very small, very oddly-shaped house.

But I chose this all. And I hear the birds every morning, and the frogs every night. Do you?

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