I’m sitting in our 504 sq ft. cabin as I type this. My wife and I have lived here together for 2 years, so we know what it is like to inhabit a small space. There are some great advantages to living in a small space, and we will cover those in a different article, but I can also tell you that there some distinct drawbacks to tiny house living that I think you should be aware of. And now, six things about tiny house living that most people won’t tell you:
1. Everyone Has Off-Site Storage
Trust me, we know many of the “hacks” for living in a small space. We put our towel rack over the bathroom door instead of having a towel rack, we have doubled our 2’x6′ closet space by adding more rods and shelving, we have stacked books and canned goods on top of our cabinets, put up more shelving, more cabinets, and even stored dishes and pans inside of the oven. And guess what?
WE ARE STILL BURSTING AT THE SEAMS!
I tell people that 75% of our food bucket storage (which isn’t even a whole lot) is over at mom and dad’s place. It doesn’t do us any good over there, but I guess the folks will eat well if the time of trouble comes before we can move into our new place. We also have LOTS of other stuff stored over there–a mattress, a kitchen sink for our new place, baby supplies, books, you name it. It’s all just sitting there taking up usable space. And it gets really old carting stuff back and forth. These wonderful tiny house documentaries never show you the storage facilities that most tiny home owners have to store their stuff in. There are only so many storage hacks before stuff just starts piling up. Which leads us to our second point…
2. Tiny Homes are Hard to Keep Clean
Reasonably sized houses have a distinct advantage over tiny homes–they give you a place to temporarily put things until you can decide what to do with them. In a tiny home, you LIVE with whatever you bring into them. Tiny homes are difficult to keep clean, especially when living on a farm when your home doesn’t have a mudroom. There is no such thing as throwing something into the closet–NO–straightening up has to happen every day. After a while, you have to resort to stacking things just about everywhere and stuffing your possessions into every little nook and cranny.
Soon you realize that you just don’t DO certain things that you used to do. Maybe you don’t play guitar anymore because it is such a pain to drag your amplifier out of the crowded corner and find a place to set it on the living room floor that is littered with play mats and baby swings (MIND YOU, I wouldn’t be describing the current state of our living room. No, no, this is merely a hypothetical exercise, of course!)
Bottom line: You can reshuffle, remove, rethink, and reclaim space, but eventually life catches up with you.
3. Tiny Houses Poor Choice for Off-Grid Self-Sustaining Lifestyle
My friends, if you intend to live a self-sufficient lifestyle and there will be more than one person in your dwelling, then a tiny home should not be considered a permanent solution. For people who want to go to the grocery store five times a week for every little thing, you can do quite nicely in a small home. However, if you want to do a lot of canning, dehydrating, and other means of food preservation, you will likely pull your hair out trying to find space. In order to can, you’ll need space to put hundreds of jars, one or two pressure canners, a big pot for water bath canning, an apple peeler and maybe a juicer and blender, canning lids/accessories, and, OH YEAH, your tiny table will be chock full with all of your canned goodies. This is great except for the fact that you just might like to sit down and, you know, actually EAT at your table (what a concept!). You would put the jars away to clear them off the table, BUTTTT you don’t have any more space. Off to the storage unit they go!
Also on this point, there’s just not a lot of room for coveralls and other warm clothing. Our little broom closet is so full that it is just plain frustrating. And supplies like an axe, saw, lantern, household tools, etc? Good luck with that…
I often joke with people that our garden is eight times bigger than our cabin. Try fitting your garden into your house–not an easy task!
4. The Romanticism of Tiny House Living Wears Off Fast
Before purchasing our tiny home, we watched several well-done tiny house documentaries. We were fascinated by space saving features such as beds that fold down from the wall, hidden pop-out compartments, and creative shelving solutions. It all seemed so quaint, rustic, and romantic! But the charm does tend to fade over time as reality sets in. When I first moved in to my cabin as a single person, I felt like I had the world by the tail! I had plenty of room! Why did people think they needed such a large space to live?
Well lets just say that over time we have become “space challenged” with the addition of a lovely wife, child, piano, vacuum cleaner, end tables, dressers, a fold-out couch, bookshelf, and desk. These things don’t leave much room for actually living in your living room. After a while, it really does feel like the “walls are starting to close in.”
5. Tiny Homes Can be Noisy
Amanda and I frequently find ourselves yelling so that the other person can hear us over the washer and dryer, the bathroom exhaust fan, or the noisy box unit air conditioning unit. It can also be difficult to sleep with the washer and/or dryer going. It can also be difficult to concentrate when necessary as you will have to share what little space you have with several other family members who may not like the peace and quiet as much as you do (i.e. a crying baby).
6. Tripping Over Each Other
Much frustration can ensue over something as basic as trying to fetch a jar of applesauce. It seems like Amanda and I are always in each others way. For example, I will be eating my breakfast and she may need to open the pantry to get some food to make my lunch for the day (be jealous, fellas!), and this means that I have to scoot forward and she has to squeeze past me to try to find the one thing she is looking for (which just so happens to be in the very BACK of the pantry behind three layers of jars.
Frustration can also build when you realize there is no place for you to sit down and eat at the table, much less a place for you to fix your food. Working on any meaningful project (such as a quilt) makes life very difficult during the days that your creation lays sprawled out on the living room/kitchen/office/family room floor. Navigating your home can often seem like performing a gymnastics routine as you step over, jump, pull, and stretch your way across the treacherous terrain.
Well, there you have it, 6 things most people won’t tell you about tiny house living. Despite the disadvantages cited in my experience living in a tiny home, there are some great advantages, too. And for many of us, living in a small space is the only way to get onto a country property any time soon. Tiny homes are often a great short-term solution, but should not be relied upon for extended periods of time. They should almost always be viewed as a stepping stone to a more realistically sized home.
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–John @ Christian Country Living