By: Lee Breslouer
Tiny homes seem like utopian living spaces — where twee hipsters can lounge on handmade foldaway futons draped in quilts from Etsy, surrounded by four tiny walls of reclaimed wood.
Look on Instagram. Watch Tiny House Nation. Check out Pinterest. Stream a movie on Netflix. Hell, visit Thrillist. But after speaking to people who have spent time in tiny spaces — everything from tiny homes, to RVs, to converted buses, to shipping containers — the truth comes out. Sadly, these aren’t the utopian living spaces that are going to save you from paying exorbitant rents or 30-year mortgages. There are plenty of unique problems that come with every kind of pint-sized living space, turning them from cute little dream homes into compact nightmares.
Credit: Courtesy of Rhino Cubed
What tiny houses get right
There are plenty of great reasons to buy a tiny house, RV, or a shipping container that can be turned into a home. I toured the one in the photo, and it seems fantastic. You’ll get rid of all the crap you don’t need (frankly, there’s no room for it where you live, regardless). There’s a smaller environmental footprint. You’ll spend less money on rent or a mortgage. You can theoretically drop the home wherever and live anywhere you choose.
As Jordan, a guy who lives in California in a converted bus, told me, you learn “deliberateness.” That’s a fine bastardization of a famous Thoreau quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Jordan says he and his wife cut out vegging. He sold all his video game consoles, bravely discovering whether life without Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is even a life worth living. They’re living a decidedly simpler life, but they’re still part of the modern, not-tiny world.
Living in a tiny space sounds like a one-way ticket to Walden Pond. But there’s plenty to consider about living tiny that the promise of a deliberate lifestyle and a beautiful Instagram photo cannot convey. Mainly, that living in cramped quarters and composting your poop can suck.
Credit: Flickr/Nicolas Boullossa
You don’t just plop the darn thing down
The obvious thing to do would be to find a place to build your tiny home, and then build it. Easy! But zoning laws often make that difficult, depending on where you live. Many of the same laws made to combat people living in their cars essentially outlaw tiny living. Personally, I think the car could be the next frontier of tiny living — imagine how superior people would feel when telling those tiny house losers that they live in the backseat of a Prius. “Sure, 10sqft is all I need for me, my dog, my wife, my three kids, and our parakeet,” they’d say, ignoring the fact that they’re basically bragging about being homeless.
Also, even if you buy land, it may still be illegal to put a structure like a tiny home on it. And that’s land you actually own!
If you’re in an RV — a tiny house on wheels, essentially — things don’t get any easier. Lauren from Colorado moved into an RV with her boyfriend at the time because she wanted “a new back yard everyday.” She has the ability to work remotely, and instead of finding a new place to rent in every city she went to, she just thought they’d pull up the RV and be set. The reality was much different.
“You’d always have to find hookups and spots to park,” she says. “All of the RV parks are taken by people actually living in trailers. You’re only allowed to stay in state and national parks for two weeks, and then you can’t come back for another 21 days.”
Why didn’t they use the Walmart parking lot as their backyard every day? You really have to be causing trouble to get kicked out of one of those. But I guess being in nature is more alluring than being feet away from the Everyday Low Prices of Kevin James’ latest DVD release.
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