Archive for tiny houses

Why I didn’t want a big house

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 12/20/2014 by Fox

No architect troubled to design houses that suited people who were to live in them, because that would have meant building a whole range of different houses. It was far cheaper and, above all, timesaving to make them identical.
~Michael Ende

At 1,200 square feet, my house (one-half of a duplex) is not exactly a McMansion. But for a single person accustomed to half the square footage, this place is luxuriously large. A bit too luxuriously large, as a matter of fact.

It takes more energy to heat and cool this place, and with the thermostat upstairs, temperatures from one end of the house to the other vary widely. Luckily, I have a small space heater I can use when I’m feeling chilly, so the main thermostat remains at a fairly low temperature in the winter. In the summer, I just deal with it. I prefer lower temperatures when I sleep, so the upstairs thermostat (where the bedrooms are) works out better for most of the year.

The bigger problem is that there is a lot of room, especially the useless empty space of bedrooms and dining room. This duplex was designed in the late seventies, and whoever did the layout was on some serious drugs. Mine is the better half…my unfortunate neighbors ended up with an even worse layout in a bigger space. I’d hate to see what idiocy would have occurred with only half the square footage. Large bedrooms and dining rooms are, for me, wasted space. They’re single-purpose rooms that need to be only as large as will comfortably house the furniture.

And contrary to what everyone tells me, cleaning a bigger space has to be done just as often. But now there’s twice as much to clean. And I have discovered that the stairs are magnets for the cat hair dust bunnies that appear swiftly after a cleaning session.

However, I knew going into the nightmare that was home buying that I probably wouldn’t find a house that met my needs and was under a thousand square feet. It seems that 1200 is the smallest house considered “acceptable.” Those older homes that were once smaller had been added to or converted or needed far more work than I could afford to pump into them.

Someone visiting my house lamented the lack of a guest bathroom. I would have been more shocked if I wasn’t so accustomed to the way people seem to demand far more than they could ever need in a house. The fact that I have a dedicated guest bedroom should be enough, I think (especially since it wasn’t exactly a hot item on my “needs” list). If you want more than that, get a hotel room. A guest bathroom would be nice for fifteen minutes twice a year…meaning I’d spend far more time paying for it, cleaning it, and stocking it than I would receive benefit from having it. But few people take the time to examine the reality of their life in order to know what they need. I don’t really need a dining room. I’ve spent years without one, and I rarely use the one I have now. A large dining room and a guest bathroom make no sense to someone who does not entertain. I’m not going to pretend that I entertain, or that I ever will. It’s not my style, and I won’t apologize for it. I don’t need a reading nook in my bedroom either. I read at work or on the couch.

I would like more garage, though. I’m abnormally fond of the one I have, and the ability to both store my car and work on projects at the same time would be handy.


Micro-houses, sustainable urban development, and affordable housing

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 11/27/2014 by Fox

My office has a view of low-cost housing, old East German prefabricated apartment buildings. It isn’t an attractive view, but it’s very helpful, because it reminds me to ask myself, whenever there is a decision to be made, whether the people who live there can afford our decisions.
~Sigmar Gabriel

The tiny house movement has a large number of detractors. My answer to them is usually “Don’t live in a tiny house, then.” In this case, Kriston Capps is critical of the notion that tiny houses are more sustainable and/or financially more suitable. The description of a tiny house on a large plot of land as being a “fetish object” is itself missing the point. Tiny houses, if built correctly, require fewer resources, produce less waste, and require less energy to heat and cool. It doesn’t matter if the house sits on 500 square feet or 500 acres, the ecological cost of construction and upkeep isn’t significantly different.

Capps is spot-on with their criticism of tiny houses as the solution to urban housing. We already have relatively sustainable urban homes that allow for people to live both densely and comfortably…they’re called “apartments.” Unfortunately, new construction is limited to building high-end apartment buildings and complexes, letting the older ones naturally fall in price as they fall in desirability. This isn’t helpful when demand exceeds supply, but I can’t imagine someone building a new complex of affordable micro-apartments. Not because it isn’t possible, but simply because I’ve never seen anyone do anything remotely close. The closest new apartment construction comes to “affordable” is cramming multiple people in one unit and charging them separately.

On the other hand, tiny homes would be much more suitable for people who prefer the sprawl of the suburban lifestyle, and would allow for a greater density of single-family homes and thus cut down on both land use and distance needed to reach anywhere useful. Unfortunately, the suburban demographic is the one least likely to acknowledge the useless space and even more useless crap they’ve cluttered their lives with.

But I think what Capps really misses is that some of us, myself included, don’t want to live large. I was hoping to snag one of the older, 500-750 square foot two bedroom homes in town. Instead, the market pushed me into an over-large 1200 square foot two bedroom duplex. It doesn’t matter if I live in town or out of it, I don’t need 1200 square feet of living space, especially not when most of my previous 600 square foot apartment went unneeded. That’s not a “fetish,” that’s “living in a size-appropriate dwelling.”

But perhaps I should cut Capps some slack. They’re probably speaking only of those for whom the tiny house is a fashion statement or trend, to be loved for now and discarded later. So as to their title, I can only say that, yes, there are times when micro-housing misses the point.

Why Fox is going for an RV and not a tiny house

Posted in tiny living with tags on 11/26/2011 by Fox

There is no dependence that can be sure but a dependence upon one’s self.
~John Gay

Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens has recently moved into her tiny home. Her tiny home in someone else’s backyard, which I personally find a little…stifling. If I recall correctly, her tiny home lacks a bathroom and a kitchen, forcing her to rely upon someone else for cooking and showering and taking a piss. Of course, her fridge is a cooler, so I suppose she could just set that outside. But even if she goes raw she’s still infringing on someone else to perform basic bodily functions. Hopefully whomever she’s living with is either gone a lot or really really really likes company.

Not to mention her tiny house won’t be moving around very often. Why’s it on wheels then? To get around building codes devised to inflate property values by forcing homeowners to build a minimum square footage. Her friend, Dee Williams, supposedly has a special dispensation from the City of Portland to live in her own tiny house. But from what I’ve heard, just putting on wheels may not be enough. Tammy may find herself in legal trouble if the city ever finds out about her tiny house and decides to go after her.

I, however, have absolutely no desire to infringe upon someone else for basic necessities, (I don’t care if it “creates a better sense of community” or some other flowery excuse), remain in one place, or attempt to flaunt the legal system. Fuck all that. I’m going to move into a Class C RV. Not nearly as unusual, or shall we say, trendy. RVs have kitchens and bathrooms, however small. RVs can be moved with very little effort and time. It’s harder to break laws in an RV. You can also obtain used RVs, which helps to negate some of the financial and environmental burden. It’s also easier to find someone to fix a problem in an RV should said problem be beyond your abilities. Tammy’s alleviated some of that by going without the bathroom and kitchen, the major problem areas. But I’ll take the need to repair those over relying on someone else. Fuck community, I’m about independence. And being able to live somewhere other than someone else’s backyard. For god’s sake, the woman makes her living online…she’s in a perfect situation to be location independent. But I guess some people just like to be where they’re at. I don’t.

I’m all about where I’m going next. And right now, that’s Colorado, mother fuckers. I’m itching to leave again and I just got back from Alaska in September.

When tiny living sucks

Posted in tiny living with tags on 11/14/2011 by Fox

The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.
~Doris Janzen Longacre

My downstairs neighbor gave me his futon frame. I was originally going to give the bottom panel of mine to Dargon, but neither of us could remember to get an Allen wrench to take it off for a while. And by a while I mean a couple weeks. And then when I finally got around to it, a screw was stripped and he didn’t feel like jacking with replacing an assembly and the bottom panel, so I put it up on Freecycle instead.

The point is, I had a futon frame taking up a considerable portion of my living room for the better part of a month. Considerable as in I had to pull in my desk chair so my roommate could get to the front door.

And then yesterday, I was cooking chicken tortilla soup in my crock pot. I was cleaning up after prepping everything and putting it on to cook. There were crumbs beneath the crock pot, and I moved it a little to get at them. Now, the only open plug near a counter in my kitchen is just barely within reach of the cords of most small kitchen appliances like toasters and crock pots (you may already see where this is going). So my precariously positioned crock pot, when adjusted slightly, lost balance and nearly fell straight off the counter.

As it was, I just ended up with half of my soup all over the floor and in the cat dishes (yum!). I put what had been caught in the lid back in the pot, set it back up, swore a little, swore again, and then started cleaning up the mess. And then swore some more for good measure.

Thankfully, the part of chicken tortilla soup that’s expensive is the chips and sour cream that weren’t involved. I did lose quite a bit of chicken, but I only add one breast. I’ve got half an onion, some cilantro, and celery left over, so I’ll just make a fresh batch when I eat this up. But still, losing all that food rather sucked.

Add in sharing a bathroom with a sometimes bizarre Chinese woman who insists on hour-long bathathons and doing her laundry in the bathroom with a very small washing machine, and, well, sometimes living tiny just sucks.

On the other hand, of course, I can vacuum the entire apartment in less than five minutes.

Fox’s tiny living future?

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 06/18/2011 by Fox

We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.
~Charles F. Kettering

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff written by people who live in RVs. One thing that caught my attention was the idea of parking someplace, working for a while while saving a bunch, and then wandering about until the money ran out and it was time to work again. Sounds like my kinda life, and one I could easily live considering my very minimal financial needs. Doubly so if I had the RV paid off.

Of course, my biggest concern is the fact that such a life makes saving for retirement improbable. Temporary jobs don’t often pay well, nor do they come with the benefits that long-term jobs have…such as retirement plans.

So the question is…do I live like I am, saving my ass off for retirement and in hopes that I could save enough to invest enough to enable me to work very little? Or do I live like I want to live, and put very little away for the future? If I had a decent job, I’d go with the former. But without that job, the question’s not so easy.

Right now, my answer is to go for it, and live like I want to. Life is short, and I don’t want to be sixty-five and full of regret. I can always change my mind and settle down if I want. And this won’t be happening for several years…in order to pull this off, I have to be debt-free, and own an RV. Which means I have some serious saving to do, even if I decide to deal with the debt, buy the RV early, and live in it while making payments.

The RV will be used, of course. Some of the ones I was looking at cost $100,000 new. After taxes…yeah. If I search enough, maybe I can find a relatively new one in the hands of someone with buyer’s remorse.

The other issue is my (now) three cats. That’s a lot of cats to live in one RV. But I’ve got a few years to figure that out, too. Luckily, two of them are already accustomed to living in relatively small spaces, although not as small as an RV.

But there’s a lot that could happen between now and then. I can make plans, and try to see them out, but how things will pan out ultimately is anyone’s guess. If you would like to help out financially, though, you can do so via Paypal. For the few, the proud, the ones who have already donated, you are all the most fucking amazing people on the entire planet, even if I don’t notice your donation for months until one glorious day and thus I forgot to thank you. D: You guys rock something AWESOME.

That’s right, donate and you, too, could feel the gratification of having me tell you how awesome you are in public.

Finding your tiny apartment

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 02/26/2011 by Fox

May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends.
~Author Unknown

By far the easiest way to live tiny is to just rent an apartment. But the challenge posed by picking an apartment out can be daunting…especially in a college town where the apartments are thick.

1) Be prepared to search. The best apartment’s not always the first one you look at. I found my current place after hours of searching by car and on the internet. I checked out dozens of places.

2) Don’t be fooled by the cost per square foot. It’s a good indicator, yes, but your goal is tiny, not best value per square foot. I’ve had apartment complexes try to sell me on bigger apartments with this argument. And they were better deals, but what am I going to do with 1200 sq. ft. when 600 is too big? Going by sheer square footage isn’t a good idea, either. Instead, decide if the apartment as a whole, both in size and in layout, is right for you.

3) Decide what you have to have and what you can live without. I have to have ceiling fans and windows I can leave open all the time. I don’t need a dishwasher or my own washer and dryer. This may be a trial-and-error thing. There’s a good chance you may need something you didn’t even think about or that you can live without something you thought you needed. This is doubly true for tiny spaces, which can exacerbate seemingly minor details.

4) Location, location, location. Do you want to be close to work? Close to a park? Far away from train tracks? Know what needs to be close, what can be far away, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to have these things at hand (or far far away). Is location a dealbreaker or do you care if the dream apartment is a half-hour drive from everything?

5) Know the prices. Tiny apartments should be relatively cheap. Most people these days want big apartments with lots of closets. My current place is one of the cheapest in town. In order to fill the units, they have to keep the prices low to entice people to live in small apartments.


7) Look for older apartments. They’re not as nice, but as houses got bigger, so did apartments. Older apartments tend to be smaller than newer apartments.

8) Avoid taking something that’s “okay.” If you’re meaning this to be a permanent or semi-permanent residence, you don’t want to live somewhere you aren’t in love with. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a trade-off or two, but you should be able to say with confidence, “This is it!”

A tiny apartment Fox wouldn’t want to live in

Posted in tiny living with tags on 09/20/2010 by Fox

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
~Hans Hofmann

While I have to commend Steve Sauer for his use of space, I’m afraid to say I’d have to redecorate his home before I’d live in it. I like the muti-level effect, and the coziness of that TV space he has, but the entire apartment just looks too busy for me to feel relaxed in.

One of the things people in small homes are constantly trying to do is create the feel of space. Using light colors, natural light, etc, etc. Sauer’s home is a small home that feels very small and very cramped. Part of it is the immense amount of stuff he has here and there. Vases, a backpack, The two horizontal bands running along the walls. It makes the room seem complicated and smaller.

And while he hates wasted spaces, I would say that the TV lounge and “cafe area” are wasted space to me. I wouldn’t use either, personally. I read a lot, but I would be reading in the TV lounge and the cafe area would go completely unused. I would clear both out to give the apartment more of an open feel. Alternatively, I’d bring in some storage space for my camping equipment.

There don’t seem to be photos of the bedrooms, but from what I can tell, I dig them. My current bedroom is much too large…I just need space for the bed and room for my clothes.

The kitchen looks amazing, as well, (again, save for the cluttered look). I love tiny kitchen appliances. If it weren’t for my roommate, my fridge would be very empty and my freezer even more so. I don’t do weekly shopping trips, and generally cook a meal within twenty-four hours of obtaining the necessary ingredients. The freezer merely stores meat. I’m very into obscenely tiny kitchens.

I think is bathroom is bigger than mine, actually. It’s certainly nicer. I’d have to chuck the tub, though. I’m not taking a bath in the middle of my apartment. For two, the cats would fall in and I’d have to fish them back out again.

Really, all I think this points to is the need for a tiny space to be very precise and very personal. You don’t have the luxury of room to make do. Each and every space has to be just right, or it doesn’t work. What works for Sauer doesn’t work for me, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for some other tiny living enthusiast. You can’t crank out a bunch of ultra-small dwellings and expect that there won’t have to be alterations made for each person. Look at the myriad of different ways people handle one-room efficiencies. Some people make the closet into a bedroom, others push the bed against the wall and hide it with furniture or curtains. Others make the bed serve as a couch as well. Tiny spaces are all very unique.